To the Parents of My Grandchildren: Meditations on Some Parents of the Bible for Christian Parents, by a Grandfather

Table of Contents

1. Preface
2. Preface to Second Edition
3. Introduction
4. Adam
5. Lamech
6. Enoch
7. Enoch to Noah
8. Noah
9. Abraham
10. Lot
11. Isaac
12. Ishmael
13. "Guilty"
14. Esau
15. Jacob
16. Amram and Jochebed
17. Pharaoh
18. Aaron
19. Moses
20. Caleb
21. Achan
22. Rahab
23. The Daughters of Zelophehad
24. Gideon
25. Jephthah
26. Samson
27. Elimelech and Naomi
28. Hannah
29. Eli
30. Samuel
31. David
32. Ittai
33. Barzillai the Gileadite
34. Saul
35. Jonathan and Mephibosheth
36. Benaiah the Son of Jehoiada
37. Abner's Son
38. Solomon
39. Rehoboam
40. Abijah
41. Asa
42. Jehoshaphat
43. Hezekiah
44. Josiah
45. Daniel
46. Mordecai
47. Shallum and His Daughters
48. Zacharias and Elisabeth
49. The Home at Nazareth
50. "Suffer the Little Children"
51. Only Begotten Children
52. Zebedee's Children
53. Mary, the Mother of John Whose Surname Was Mark
54. A Series of Households
55. Exhortations to Parents
56. "A Wise Son Heareth His Father's Instruction."
57. About the Author


To Christian Parents, Beloved in the Lord:
I think I may address you thus, as these pages are only meant for those who belong to HIM, and that bond makes us all one family: all dear to each other. So bear with an old man who would like to pass on to some of the younger members of that great Family a few of the lessons he has tried to learn from the merry children who once were in his home, but now are far away.
Perhaps I should have said they were lessons which our Divine Teacher (Matt. 23:8, New Translation) had sought to teach through His Holy Word; and that also would be true. It may be that our Lord uses both His Word, and the children, to teach these lessons truly; so that we do not know them in theory only.
You have seen a child that finds some lesson terribly hard: perhaps the teacher has turned it back more than once, and all the page is blotted with tears before it is learned. Some of these pages have been blotted with tears; and I am not at all sure that all the lessons that the writer is trying to pass on to you have been learned.
Do not think he writes because of any imagined superiority. He does not: some of these lessons have caused so much pain that finally in anguish of heart he put the whole thing away, and determined to have nothing more to do with it. And there it lay for several years, like a discouraged child that hides its exercise book because it shows so plainly the blots, mistakes and failures.
But it would not be hidden like that, so finally he had to get it out and try to finish it up. You will not read far before you will guess that these pages were written only for certain special eyes to see: eyes that many a time have “looked love to eyes that met again;” and so you must pardon the freedom and intimacy of the style; for nothing has been changed. This little book would not be offered to you now, but for the fact that, as “our beloved brother Paul,” puts it: —“I am a debtor....”
We are in the “perilous times” foretold in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:1); and it is not easy to bring up our children. The Lord Himself says: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.” (Isa. 1:2). Alas, there is that in the hearts of our children (and in us also), that causes them naturally to turn in the wrong direction; and only the grace of God is sufficient for the parents’ need. Thank God, He reckons our children “holy”, (1 Cor. 7:14); and He says, “My Grace is sufficient.” If these pages should prove an encouragement, or a signpost of warning, to some young parent, how thankful I would be! May the God of Hope be with you, dear fellow-parent.
“A Grandfather”

Preface to Second Edition

It is with surprise, and gratitude to our Lord, that we find another edition of this little book is required.
One reader says it is a sad book, and I fear that is true, but is not Man’s history, from Adam onwards, a sad story of failure, sin and sorrow? But the darker this part of the picture, the brighter shine the love and grace and faithfulness of God. So it is hoped that amidst the sad failure, our eyes may be turned to `Him Who Faileth Not’, and we may be encouraged to count on His faithfulness for the responsibility that is ours.
God is still ‘the God of all Encouragement’ (2 Cor. 1:3, New Translation), and even if the pages that follow must solemnize and sadden us, it is hoped they may also encourage the heart of every reader.


Long years ago, when you were young, on my way to work I used to pass a poor wreck of a house. It was empty as long as I knew it, and as the years passed the sight became increasingly sad. It was a large, square, red-brick house, standing alone in what once had been nice grounds. It looked homelike and comfortable in the days when I first knew it, even though it was empty. But the picture of it that comes back to my mind, as I last saw it, is very different. The fence was broken down, the verandah fallen to pieces, the windows gone, the doors and outhouses broken —a sad, sad ruin.
But the saddest part of all was the fact that this house had once been the old family homestead of a wealthy, prosperous, prominent Christian business man. Everybody had known him as a Christian man; and now this was the sad monument to the world by which he was remembered.
The family was an even sadder wreck than the home; too sad for me to try and tell the story.
You may guess that many a time as I passed that house the question would come to my mind, if not to my lips, “How is it that a family, known as a Christian family, can come to this?” And some of you, as I looked tremblingly at the years ahead, would lie heavily on my heart.
I turned to my Bible, the dear old Book that always gives comfort in sorrow, peace in anxiety, and instruction for our ignorance. I found in that Book a vast amount of teaching on that unspeakably important subject. I do not suggest that I even began to dig deeply in the mine of wealth at our hand, nor did I follow (as I earnestly wish I had) the teachings I found there. These teachings are presented in a variety of ways —by example, by warning, by precept.
Now, my dear ones, you are no longer “the little ones” you then were: but instead you have “little ones” of your own, to train up for your Lord and Master. Will you allow the grandfather of these “little ones” to pass on to their parents something of what he has gleaned while meditating on the joys and sorrows of the parents we find set before us in the Scriptures?
As you know, he does not write because of any eminent success he has had in bringing up his own children, rather must he plead, with David, “Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow.” (2 Sam. 23:5). But in spite of all his failure, he can bear witness to the great grace of God and His unfailing patience, even in this heavy responsibility.
I suppose any God-fearing parent must be deeply solemnized as he ponders such stories as Adam, whose eldest son was a murderer; Noah, some of whose posterity still lie under a curse; Abraham, whose eldest son has ever been, and still is, an implacable enemy, and a source of sorrow and distress, to the people of God; Moses, whose grandson was probably one of the first, if not the very first, idolatrous priest in Israel; David, and his family sorrows; and as we consider Josiah’s family, it is enough to break any parent’s heart.
So our hearts cry out for an answer to the question that will arise, “Why should such good men have such wicked offspring?” We cannot but ask in our hearts, even if our lips refuse to frame the question; “Is there any way I may be sure that my family does not follow in this sad, sad pathway?”
These questions have often been in the heart of the writer, and perhaps you also have been troubled with similar thoughts. He would therefore seek, by God’s grace and help, to point out some of the answers that the Word of God seems to give to these questions. And as that question again echoes back to us, “Why should such honored servants of the Lord have such evil children?”, the Word of God seems to echo back another question (as it so often does) in answer to our own, “Is there not a cause?”
Is there not always a cause for a wicked child to a godly parent? The Scriptures seem to tell us that there is such a cause. These sad stories are not recorded in the Bible to weaken the hands of Christian parents today, but rather as warnings to tell us of the lurking dangers in our own family life; and if we will take heed to these warnings, we will be forever thankful to the One who gave them. Sad, sad indeed is the Lord’s complaint of some: “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the Word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.” (Jer. 6:10). And what is the remedy if we feel that such is our condition? I suppose we find the remedy in Jer. 4:4. “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart.” I suppose that the exhortation to “circumcise ourselves to the Lord” means to cut off those “lusts of the flesh” which so easily ensnare us. As we care for our children, even though we do not so care for ourselves, yet for our children’s sake, even if not for the higher motive, for the Lord’s sake, we dare not go on without heeding this exhortation; we dare not risk letting our ears become heavy so that these most solemn warnings are not heard. Oh, my children, let me plead with you, at any cost, to hearken and to heed these warnings from our Heavenly Father’s Word: for my heart trembles, if you should not, that the day may come when with broken heart you would give all you possess to have this opportunity once again, but it is passed, and does not return. I have seen the anguish of a brokenhearted parent gazing in agony on a wayward child, knowing full well that the cause was his own careless walk, perhaps in a path trodden years before. But “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap”, is a saying that is most awfully true between ourselves and our children.


Let us first look at the story of Adam. Well we know the cause of the downfall of Adam’s firstborn. “Ye shall be as gods”, had been the Tempter’s promise to Eve, and Eve and her husband had both fallen. And just what was the cause of their fall? Disobedience. Disobedience to the clear Word of God. Deliberate disobedience to the clear Word of God that they well knew, and thoroughly understood. And we may be assured that disobedience to that Word, even though it may seem to ease our path here, will bring sorrow, not only to ourselves, but sorrow —and perhaps ruin —to our children.
Perhaps DISOBEDIENCE, the first cause of ruin brought before us, still holds the first place as the most general cause of the wreckage of Christian homes. May I beseech you, as you love your Master, as you love your children, to render a full, hearty, loving and instant obedience, to the Word of God. It is our only safe pathway down here.
But what was the cause of the disobedience of our first parents? I suppose the first cause was the doubt cast by the serpent on that Word. “Yea, path God said?” May the Lord Himself keep you, in these days when it is fashionable to doubt His Word, may He keep you with such an unshakable confidence in it, that nothing may ever in the smallest way disturb that faith.
How firm a foundation, Ye saints of the Lord Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
There are certain things we are to flee from. “Flee also youthful lusts.” (2 Tim. 2:22). “Flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14). “Flee fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18). “Thou, O man of God, flee these things.” (1 Tim. 6:11). But, as far as I know, we are never told to flee from the devil. On the contrary we read: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). I believe there is never a doubt cast on the Word of God that does not have the devil for its author. Resist him, and he will flee from you.
But as we saw, there was a special bait offered to Eve to make her disobey. “Ye shall be as gods”. He offers to Eve a higher place than the one God had given. Do we not see exactly the same effort being made by parents on every hand? Are not most people seeking to “rise in society”? Are not most seeking to obtain a higher place in the world, if not for themselves, at least for their children?
Sad to say, Christian parents are not free from this same device of the enemy to cast down us and our families. On every hand we see it. Our parents were contented with a cottage, we must have a fine house. Our parents were contented to travel on foot, we must have a motor car. Our parents were content with rag mats, we must have beautiful and costly rugs and carpets. You tell me times have changed. True, they have. “There were giants in the earth” in our parents’ day, in the things of God; but in our day, weaklings.
It is the same complaint that Adam had. It has even been caricatured in the daily press: who has not seen or heard of “keeping up with our neighbors”? It amused us when it should have warned us, for we, too, often are tempted to “keep up” with our neighbors, and acquaintances. We cannot bear to be thought different; and yet God in His mercy has made a difference, we are different. I believe that the failure to remember this difference, this desire on the part of Cain’s parents to be in a higher station than the one in which God had placed them was one of the causes of Cain’s ruin, and Abel’s death.
The New Testament gives us a little more light on this subject: “Wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12). He was jealous of his brother, and “who is able to stand before envy?” (Prov. 27:4). Envy has brought down many a saint of God. It would well repay you to take your Bibles, and a good concordance, and see just what the Lord has to say about envy; but look now at one passage only, “Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16). Yes, it was envy at the root of Cain’s murder. It is envy that makes us seek a higher place in the world than the one God gave us. So, my dear ones, earnestly take heed to lay aside all envies. (1 Peter 2:1).
As Eve plucked that forbidden fruit, how little did she think of the unspeakably bitter fruit she was preparing for herself, fruit that was to take two sons from her at one blow. And how lightly and carelessly we may indulge in some known sin that may bring years of sorrow and anguish to ourselves and to our children. So take heed!
But there is another hint given us that all was not as it should have been in Adam’s household. We gather from Gen. 4:1 that it was Eve who gave Cain his name. This may be quite in accord with modern practice, but we fear it is quite contrary to God’s order. It seems like a straw which tells which way the wind blew in Adam’s house. You remember it was Eve who led the way to Adam’s fall, and apparently Eve continued to lead in that first household. But when we come to Seth in Gen. 5:3 we find things had changed. “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.” Adam and Eve had learned their lesson and we find Adam in his right place.
And what was that place? What was Eve’s right place in that first “home”? I suppose that on the one hand, 1 Peter 3:4-6 answers this question for us, “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” And on the other hand it is the young women, the young wives and mothers, you dear ones to whom I am writing, who are “to guide the house.” (1 Tim. 5:14). The Greek word is especially interesting. It is the only place in the New Testament where it is used, and literally translated, I suppose, would read, “Be the house-mistress.” It is one single word, a verb. The corresponding noun is used twelve times (all in the first three Gospels, and always of the father) and is translated “House-master”, “Goodman of the house”, etc. The thought in the verse in Timothy has been beautifully paraphrased thus: “It implies a queenly sovereignty, and would not put aside the kingly sovereignty of the house-master himself” Rather as king and queen do they rule together in the little domain God has entrusted to their care.
And perhaps we see something of this unity of mind and action in connection with the baby Seth: for in Gen. 4:25, it would appear to be Eve who again took the lead in naming the child, while in chapter 5:3, we find the same words used of Adam.
The Book of Proverbs demands more than a passing reference, but this delightful harmony of Father and Mother is well illustrated there by the fact that out of fourteen times in which the mother is mentioned, twelve times the father and mother are linked together.
Apparently this lovely unity was absent from Adam’s household for many long years, and the contrast between Gen. 4:1 and 5:3 forms a serious lesson for us. Eve “guided the house” truly, but she seems to have neglected the balancing admonition of 1 Peter 3. But it is refreshing to see that the lesson was learned at last, and Seth, the fruit and the evidence of this hardly-learned lesson, is the first in the long line of the seed of the woman, which culminated in that Glorious Seed, Who has bruised the serpent’s head.


The next parent brought before us in the Scriptures is Lamech, “the seventh from Adam”, but seventh in the line of Cain, not of Seth. First take note that Lamech is the first one mentioned in the Bible with more than one wife. That custom originated with a child of Cain, not a child of Seth.
You have heard men say of certain parents, “They may be justly proud of their family.” Lamech, Adah and Zillah, (his two wives), were just such parents. The boys were apparently brought up to be useful, industrious men, and their sister Naamah, (Pleasant), completes a very charming picture of an earthly home. Adah’s two sons Jabal and Jabal, were respectively the father of such as dwell in tents and have cattle; and those who handle the harp and the organ; while Tubalcain, (meaning a “pouring forth of Cain”, in memory of his famous ancestor), was the father of the metal-working industry, a great and glorious trade that is coming more into its own every day we live. Yes, as Lamech watched the marked success in life of each of his four children he may well have been (from the world’s view point) a proud and happy man.
But appearances are deceitful, and like his ancestor, whose name he was seeking to perpetuate in one of his sons, Lamech had a sin that seems to have haunted him; and sin takes the joy out of any life. Like Cain, Lamech was a murderer, and the fear of vengeance evidently hung heavily upon him, and sapped the peace and joy that might have been his.
And what of his family? What of those early pioneers in farming, music, and the metal-trade? They have long since passed off the scene:
“Yes, but whither, whither bound?”
trained for earth, successful on earth, there is no suggestion that they ever left the broad road which already had led to Destruction so many walking on it, with Cain, their honored ancestor, leading the way.
Thousands of Christian parents have given their offspring a good start on the broad road, when they only meant to give them a good start in life. How much better for your little darlings to be unknown and unnoticed in this life, with their names written in Heaven than to have them shine on the brightest tablets of this world, without Christ!


It is a joy to turn from the “seventh from Adam” in the line of Cain to “the seventh from Adam” in Seth’s line (Jude 14). By-the-way, have your ever stopped to think why the Holy Spirit, in a Book as brief as Jude, should take the trouble to point out to us the number of generations from Adam to Enoch? Enoch’s history is one that should bring comfort to any Christian parent today. We read, “Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah; and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.” (Gen. 5:21-22).
Note that there is no record that Enoch walked with God for the sixty-five years before the baby Methuselah arrived on the scene. Apparently it was that little infant that drove Enoch to walk with God.
You may have noticed how selfish most young Christians are, no matter whether married or unmarried. Self, good self, or bad self, generally occupies a large place in their thoughts. “What would I like?” “I don’t want to do that!” How often we hear such expressions! How often we have used them ourselves! But when the children begin to come, we start on a new course of lessons. The baby is fretful, and will not sleep. Mother has had the little one all day, and now it is the father’s turn. Many an hour have I walked the floor with one of you in my arms, when I would fain have been asleep in my warm and cozy bed. Happy the parents who can walk with God, as they walk the floor with a crying, restless infant. They will find those dreaded night-watches turned into heavenly communings, with their best and dearest Friend. The silent house, when everybody else is asleep, will be found to be just the place where your Lord and you can walk together undisturbed.
And as the baby, (as each of you have done in turn), comes down to the brink of that cold, dark river, and that little life, that has grown dearer to you than your own, seems about to slip away, you learn one of the deepest lessons that this life can teach, to say in very truth, “Thy will be done!”
But a book might be written of the lessons we learn from our little darlings, with those tender little hands, whose very touch grows to mean so much to our hearts, or those stubborn wills that set themselves in defiance against our authority.
We cannot speak more of such lessons, only a parent knows and understands them, and I suppose only a parent can understand truly the story of Enoch. It seems to have been written specially for us parents, and may we each one find, as Enoch found, that our little darlings lead us, or drive us, to walk with God, and in this wondrous companionship may we find strength and comfort for the parents’ path.
That little babe who seems to have been the means of causing his father to walk with God must have watched that loved parent day by day in his walk. He must have heard him utter those solemn prophecies of judgment to come, recorded for us thousands of years later by Jude; and his own name Methuselah means, “When he is dead it shall be sent”. All this must have given him very different hopes and ambitions to those of his cousins, the children of Lamech.
“What’s in a name?” has become a proverb in our day; but how much there was wrapped up in the name of Enoch’s son, to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear. For three hundred years he watched his father’s consistent walk, until “he was not, for God took him:” “took him” without seeing death, as we learn in Heb. 11. But Methuselah lived on down here, and he knew that as long as he lived the judgment could not fall. His own son Lamech was born and lived 777 years (very different to the man in the last Book of the Bible whose number is 666) and he died, but Methuselah his father lived on for another five years. He watched his grandson Noah (meaning “Comfort”) through 600 years of life, he heard the solemn announcement of the judgment, and saw the ark being prepared to the saving of the lives of the whole household of his grandson, before at last he, the oldest man who ever lived, passed from this scene and prepared the way for the judgment to come. The 969 years of Methuselah’s life are a mighty voice crying aloud to those who have ears to hear, telling us of God’s patience and longsuffering; that judgment is His strange work, but proclaiming with equal clearness and precision the certainty of judgment to come.
Contrast for a moment the homes of these two patriarchs, each seventh from Adam, the one breathed the air of earth, the other the atmosphere of Heaven. The one was guilty of murder, the other never tasted death.
We parents may well covet for ourselves a life such as that of Enoch as an example to set before our children. There can be nothing that will more powerfully separate them from this world lying under its impending doom, than such a life as this.
Though my pen has run far beyond what I had intended to say of Enoch, I should like to include the following lines that link together these Patriarchs, Enoch, Methuselah and Noah.

Enoch to Noah

The busy world was pressing on its way
Intent to plant and build, to sell and buy:
And neither knew nor cared that every day
The Lord Himself came from His Home on high
To walk with man.
And thus the course of time its way fast rolled,
Till soon three hundred years were fully gone,
While Enoch, prophet of the Lord, foretold
The Lord with thousands of His saints will come,
Will come to judge.
Alas, the busy world still sped its way,
Nor thought, nor cared, for God’s most solemn cry.
Then, strangely, Enoch was not found one day,
For God had taken him to dwell on high,
To dwell with Him.
But Enoch’s son still spread the message grave:
“When I shall die the judgment sure must fall”
And Noah built an ark their souls to save:
He, too, while building, preached the solemn call:
The Judge is near.
The world sped on without a thought of God.
No time had they to hear what He might say.
Nor did they know, until had come the flood,
And took them all, yes, every one, away:
The Judge had come.
And still the busy world runs its own way,
Intent to plant and build, to sell and buy:
And heeds not, just as ’twas in Noah’s day,
That God still sends abroad that solemn cry:
The Judge is near.
Before shall swiftly fall that judgment dire,
Like Enoch once, our God shall claim His own.
The world, and all its works, are burnt with fire;
But His shall walk with Him in white, at Home:
At Home, with Him!


Few there are who have been so greatly honored as Noah. Like his great-grandfather, it is recorded of him that he walked with God. He, by faith, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house. His grandfather’s name and presence must have been a daily reminder of the judgment that was daily drawing nearer. We can well believe that those last five years between the death of his father and grandfather, years in which the ark was nearing completion, must also have been years of very earnest testifying, by that ancient “preacher of righteousness”. And then came that death which opened the way for the flood. And then the flood itself, with the utter destruction of friends, acquaintances, and all the world they knew. Noah’s three sons and their wives passed through these solemn and terrible years. Those years should have left an imprint of solemnity on all that little family. But what is almost the first spectacle on which we gaze after freedom from the long confinement of the ark? We see Noah drunk in his tent, uncovered, and his son Ham mocking him. And one of those three favored sons, delivered through the waters of the flood, now falls under a curse which lasts to the present day.
Who was to blame? Why did the son of such an honored servant of God as Noah, fall under such a terrible condemnation? What he had seen and heard since childhood in his father’s house and especially the last few years should have hindered him following such a wicked course. But, truly, who was to blame? How often must it have been forced home to Noah’s conscience, “Had I not been guilty of that self-indulgence which made me drunk, then I would not have behaved in that shameful manner that subjected my son to the temptation that caused his ruin.” Bitter, bitter regrets must often have filled Noah’s heart, but they were vain regrets, and the bitter fruit of that day’s self-indulgence lasts to the present moment. And Ham’s second son Mizraim evidently went further than his father in the paths of wickedness, for an old writer says of him, “Mizraim was the inventor of those wicked arts named astrology and magic, and was the same person whom the Greeks named Zoroaster.”
Oh, my dear ones, take heed to self-indulgence! It is so easy to slip into it, and we find it so much more pleasant than enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; soldiers on duty, not, off duty. We will hear more of the bitter fruits of self-indulgence as we continue to meditate on the parents of Scripture: but meanwhile let us remember that “Temperate in all things”, no matter whether chocolates, a book, or a hobby —as well as that in which Noah failed —is a good motto for every one of us parents.


Let us look next at Abraham. What was the cause of Abraham’s grief with Ishmael? Alas, Abraham, the father of the faithful, failed in faith. As so often in our failures, there was quite a long story connected with it. The Lord had commanded Abram to go to the land of Canaan, and we know he came and dwelt there with his tent and his altar. But famine came, as so often it is allowed to come to those who walk the path of faith, and Abraham went down into Egypt (Gen. 12:10) instead of trusting in the Lord in the land to which He had brought him.
It was in the land of Egypt he was treated well for Sarah his wife’s sake, (a shameful affair), and for her sake “he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses and menservants, and maidservants and she asses, and camels.” (Gen. 12:16). Was Hagar the Egyptian (Gen. 16:3) who afterward wrought such sorrow and mischief in his household, and became the mother of Ishmael —was she one of those “maidservants” given to Abraham for Sarah’s sake in Egypt? It would seem very probable that such was the case.
But it took another step along the same pathway, of lack of faith before Hagar became the mother of Ishmael, and he is the ancestor of the Arabs who have been such a scourge to God’s people from that day to this. And, remember, it was Sarah, not Abraham, who took the lead in the whole sad affair of Hagar, not alone in giving her to her own husband, but in treating her harshly so that she ran away, and finally it was Sarah who made the angry demand to cast out the bondwoman and her son, a demand approved by God. But all through this matter Sarah seems to have been out of her place, and this seems to make the grace of God shine out all the more brightly in giving to Sarah the special commendation, already referred to, in 1 Peter 3:5-6.
But who am I to be pointing out the failure of such a man and woman as Abraham and Sarah? And yet, these things were written for our admonition; may the Lord help us to be admonished by them.


We pass on to Lot, a sad but most instructive story. When the servants of Abraham and Lot quarreled, Abraham suggests they separate, rather than have the Amorite who was then in the land view the sad sight of fellow-servants of the true God quarreling with each other. In a lovely spirit of meekness, Abraham, the elder, invites his nephew Lot to choose where he would go. It was a sad exhibition of selfishness that permitted Lot to accept such an invitation; yet so it was, and he chose the well-watered plains of Sodom for his new home. Oh, how often have we taken our families into needless contact with defilement, in the hope of bringing greater profit to them, or to our purse.
How infinitely better for Lot to have remained poor, than to grow rich by the green grass of Sodom. We know the sad story of first looking towards the plains of Sodom, “well-watered plains”, then pitching his tent towards Sodom, then dwelling in the city itself, and finally having a place “in the gate”.
We know, too, that Lot vexed his righteous soul from day to day while he dwelt in this filthy place. Perhaps it was the wife and family that persuaded him to move into Sodom, and then stay there in spite of the soul-vexing questions that daily arose. Perhaps it was the advantage the children were likely to obtain in such a well-favored spot. Be that as it may, apparently his daughters married men of Sodom and settled down there as their home. And let us ever bear in mind that this all arose from the rude and selfish choice that Lot himself had made, instead of waiting for his uncle to choose, as courtesy demanded he should have done.
But, to me, the saddest part of all this sad story is in Gen. 19:14: “Lot went out, and spake unto his sons-in-law, which had married his daughters, and said, ‘Up, get you out of this place, for the Lord will destroy this city. ’” But he seemed as one that mocked (the New Translation reads, “jested”). “He seemed as one that jested unto his sons-in-law.”
“He seemed as one that jested.” That speaks volumes to me. As you are aware this very same sin comes as a peculiar temptation to me, and so I can understand, better perhaps than you, through the bitterness of personal experience, that even with a vexed soul, Lot had been in the habit of jesting. He may have been a very witty man, always ready with a joke. Whether this be so or not, sure I am it was not the first time that Lot had jested with his sons-in-law, or they never could have mistaken Lot’s desperate earnestness on that awful night, for a jest.
Think of it, my dear ones, Lot’s jesting cost him the lives of his daughters and their families. They all perished in the destruction of the city —perished through what was believed to be “an innocent jest.” Well can we understand the word in Eccl. 10:1, “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor; so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor.” How different to the savor of His good ointments in Sol. 1:3; or to the delightful fragrance of the ointment that filled all the house where the Lord and His disciples were sitting. How pitifully sad if all this had been ruined by a few “dead flies.”
Little wonder the New Testament so earnestly exhorts those in authority in the assembly to be sober and grave (1 Tim. 3:2, 8, 11; Titus 1:8; 2:2), and warns us all against foolish talking and jesting which are not convenient, (or “becoming”) Eph. 5:4. Oh, what an agony of remorse, if there are those whom we love who will spend an eternity in the lake of fire because of our jesting!
Would that this were the end of the sad, sad story of Lot’s family, but it is not. The wife’s backward look told where her heart was dwelling, and she became a pillar of salt: solemn warning to us all. His own daughters, delivered from Sodom, made Lot drunk on two successive nights (apparently no very uncommon occurrence with him), and then to his eternal shame and theirs, they become the mothers of the Moabites and the Ammonites: two of Israel’s most bitter enemies.
Such is the final fruit of the course of a “just man”, begun with a covetous look towards the well-watered plains of this world.
Oh, our God, keep us we pray Thee!


We pass on to Isaac. Why was his old age blighted by what promised to be a fatal quarrel between his two sons? What was the cause? I think those words “savory meat such as I love” give us a clue to the answers to these questions.
Isaac was a very wealthy man. He had never “endured hardness” as his father had done. He was what we call a “soft” man. He had lapsed into the habit of luxury and self-indulgence. “Savory meat, such as I love” are words utterly unworthy of the saint of God. Like Noah, his son’s fall was largely due to his own self-indulgence.
But this was not all the trouble in Isaac’s house. How unspeakably sad to see Rebekah deliberately arranging to deceive her husband. When we remember the story of Rebekah in Gen. 24, how she left home and kindred and all she had, to cross the desert sands to become the bride of the beloved, only-begotten son, who was heir of all things: then our hearts thrilled at one who loved, with the object of that love still unseen, (but not unknown), and so she became the exquisite picture of Christ and His church. But now her love has grown cold. She and Isaac each have a favorite child, and the wife deliberately takes advantage of her husband’s blindness, to deceive him. How far all this is from the home of a man of God, as it should be. Nor may we expect the blessing of God on our homes, if husband and wife are not one. And the children are given to bind the home together, to cement those Divine bonds which make husband and wife one. These children may not become favorites, and so divide the home, without sorrow and shame to all.


Before we consider Jacob’s remarkable history, may I turn aside for a moment to Ishmael; to one of those golden rays of God’s grace that lie hidden to the casual reader. We know little of Ishmael. He was, perhaps, fifteen or sixteen when he mocked his little brother Isaac and so was the cause of his mother and himself being turned out of his parental home to become homeless wanderers, parched with thirst. You recall Hagar’s despair as she cast the lad under a bush, and sat her down over against him a good way off: for she said, “Let me not see the death of the child”; and she sat over against him and lifted up her voice and wept. (Gen. 21:16).
And what of the boy? He, too, evidently lifted up his voice: not to weep, but to pray. He was to be a wild man (Gen. 16:12) and perhaps he was a “wild boy”, but he had not lived all those years with his dear old father, without learning something of the value of prayer. And indeed you remember his name means “Heard of God”. Let us remember this, and bear in mind that Ishmael very likely was jealous of the little boy who had, instead of himself, become “heir of all things”; he would have been almost more than natural, had this not been so. Remembering these things, it is peculiarly gratifying to find Ishmael with Isaac burying his father (25:9). Surely we may see that God was working in his heart.
Ishmael and his mother may have suffered very severely on account of their expulsion from that wealthy home of his childhood, and there was plenty of cause for bitter repentance for his past sins. How exquisite it is, then, to find that the name of Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath (28:9) means “FORGIVEN”! (see Dr. Edersheim). That little girl was probably brought up in circumstances very different to those surrounding her father’s childhood, and all on account of his sin. But every time he looked at her, he was afresh reminded that all was forgiven. There are many lovely names for children in the Old Testament Scriptures; but I know none that surpass in beauty the name of Ishmael’s little daughter “Mahalath”.
Nor is this all. Did Ishmael’s heart sometimes ache that his children were brought up in such a different home to the one he had enjoyed as a child? Through God’s amazing grace, we find in Gen. 28:9 that this very daughter of Ishmael, Mahalath, is as a bride, brought back to the very home that her father had lost through his sin. To me, this is charming beyond words. Who can tell the worth of that word “FORGIVEN”, but the one who has known something of its sweetness through the bitter experience of sin? But how doubly sweet, when restoration to the place lost, follows the forgiveness. May Ishmael and Mahalath comfort and encourage you, as they have already comforted and encouraged me! But even this is not all. Esau and Mahalath had a little son whom they called Reuel. And Reuel, we are told, means “The Friend of God”. This, you remember, is the lovely name that Abraham, the babe’s great-grandfather, bore. (See James 2:23; Isa. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7). To me, it is very sweet that they chose this name for their child.
The pardon that caused Ishmael to call his little daughter “Forgiven”, has been called “Restorative Forgiveness”, for it showed that the Great Shepherd had restored his soul. The pardon that gave that daughter the very home he had lost through sin, has been called “Governmental Forgiveness”: showing that God had in His governmental dealings remitted to his child the punishment he has suffered for his sin. There is a third pardon: a pardon that comes first to the believer: God’s “Eternal Forgiveness”. It is well for us to understand that in God’s dealings with His people, pardon, or forgiveness, must be looked at in these three aspects. And may we not expect that inasmuch as Ishmael also was a son of Abraham (See Luke 19:9) that he received eternal forgiveness, as well as restorative and governmental? But although it seems that Ishmael received all this grace from God: we need to remember that he was the grandfather of Amalek, of whom “the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” We cannot lightly sin against God and His people without very bitter fruits being the result.


Guilty! ‘Twas thus the verdict stood,
Guilty! Yes, Guilty before my God:
Guilty! In thought, and word, and deed:
Guilty, Already condemned!
Guilty! Without a word to say,
Guilty! Without a cent to pay,
Guilty! And hopelessly out of the way,
Yes, Guilty, Already condemned!
Pardoned! O Joy! So the document reads,
Pardoned! ’Tis just what a guilty one needs,
Pardoned! My thoughts, my words, my deeds,
Pardoned by GOD Himself!
Pardoned! Although I had nothing to say,
Pardoned! Without a cent to pay,
Pardoned! Though hopelessly out of the way,
Yes, Pardoned by GOD Himself!


One of the saddest and most solemn stories in all the Bible is that of Esau. He was the son of Isaac, one of the most honored of the patriarchs. He was about fifteen when his grandfather, Abraham died, and as a boy should have been greatly influenced by him who is ‘Father of the Faithful.’ He was the older twin of Jacob, to whom God showed such unspeakable grace, and to Esau belonged the birthright and the blessing. He saw, and knew, the value which his grandfather, father, and brother placed on the promises of God: but to him they appear to have meant nothing at all: and he “for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” (Heb. 12:16). He seems to have been a man entirely devoid of faith. What he could not see, had no value in his eyes. The Scriptures call him a “profane person”, and of him it is said: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” I know that he illustrates “the purpose of God according to election”, (Rom. 9:11), yet I doubt not we may trace the reason for this in Esau’s own conduct. He despised the promises of God, and “afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” (Heb. 12:17).
You remember Esau planned to murder his brother, and what seems to have been most grievous in the sight of God was the implacable hatred that the seed of Esau bore towards the seed of Jacob, who were the people of God. Yet we may see the yearning of God’s heart over these descendants of Esau, for in Deut. 23:7, He says: “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother.” In spite of all the waywardness and sin of Esau and his seed, yet the Lord would still have Israel remember the brotherly claim that Edom had upon them. But even this grace was despised and rejected, and the Lord must say to Edom: “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever.” (Obad. 1:10).
We who are Christian parents do well to remember that self-indulgence in the matter of food seems to have been the beginning of Esau’s downfall, and we have already noted that this is the very sin into which his father fell. How unspeakably sad if in a coming day it is revealed that his father’s example, led Esau to that which proved his ruin! May the Lord keep us, for we cannot keep ourselves!
But we must remember that Isaac’s bad example does not lessen Esau’s responsibility, nor excuse him for not following in the faith of his father, nor does it lessen God’s judgment on him. To understand the severity of this judgment, we must go to the Prophets. We find the whole Book of Obadiah occupied with it, and it is frequently referred to in the other Prophets: see, for example, Jer. 49:7-22. Edom is to be “cut off forever”, and is to be “as in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there.” (Jer. 49:18). When the rest of the world is rejoicing, Edom shall be utterly desolate.
Esau and his descendants remind us of children of Christian parents, children who have refused the Gospel. They have had a “birthright” of salvation, but have despised it. They have heard and known the blessed promises of God, and have rejected them. They have had grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters, whom they have seen to place great store by what they have refused. In some cases, alas, they have become very bitter towards the people of God: perhaps with some cause: what cause Esau had to be bitter towards his brother! But it did not excuse him.
To write such words is more painful than I can say: but may this sad example bring us who have wayward children, more earnestly on our faces before God on their behalf. And should the eye of such a child fall on this page, remember the mercy of God still pleads with you, and there still is a way “Home”. Is it so very hard to say: “Father, I have sinned”?


Jacob’s history is full of deeply instructive lessons. From beginning to end we seem to see written across it, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” He had deceived his father and cheated his brother. In turn he was deceived and cheated by his father-in-law, and later by his own sons. But all this only makes God’s grace to him, shine the brighter.
You will have noticed how much space in the book of Genesis the Spirit of God gives to the history of Jacob. And I think that our spirits intuitively rejoices that it is so. Jacob is so much like ourselves that our hearts continually echo, “This might be myself!” The failures, the willfulness, the planning, the lack of faith, the turning to the world, are, alas, paths only too well known to some of us. And it is for this reason we rejoice that our God so constantly speaks of Himself as “The God of Jacob”, and so very rarely as “The God of Abraham”. See, for example Psa. 20:1; 46:7, 11; 75:9; 76:6; 81:1, 4; 84:8; 94:7; 114:7; 132:2, 5; 146:5. Compare Psa. 47:9; Note 13 times in the Psalms we find “The God of Jacob”, for once “The God of Abraham.” And let us remember that “Jacob” means “Cheater”, “Deceiver”, while “Abraham” means “The Father of Many Nations.”
I must not take the time to follow Jacob through all his most interesting history. The stony pillow where the sun set, with more than twenty years of hard labor before we read of daybreak once again, and all the sufferings in Haran, are clearly fruit of his sin against his father and brother. Nor may we forget that Jacob has two wives, and two concubines, a very different condition to either his father or his grandfather. While yet in Haran we see Reuben his firstborn, still a child, being made a party to merchandise, where love alone should enter. Little wonder that this same son in later life manifests his lack of respect for these holy matters by lying with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. That single act cost Reuben his birthright, but more, it cost Jacob the most bitter grief. In Genesis 49:45 near the end of his life, the horror of this wicked and unclean act seems to be more real and terrible to him than in those earlier days, when Jacob followed afar off, instead of walking with God, as he seems to have done during the closing years of his life. And in one sense this is as it should be. True, the sins are forgiven, they are all covered, we are justified: and when it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? “The Accuser of the brethren” is only too eager to cast up these old sins against us, and to remind us of them: but thank God, we have One for us, Who is ever ready to say: “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord... rebuke thee; is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zech. 3:2). And yet, for all that, the horror of those old sins should become greater, as we better know what they cost our Redeemer.
Abraham and Isaac were pilgrims. They had their tent and their altar. The only land in Canaan owned by either of these patriarchs was a grave; and Jacob should have followed in their footsteps, but in Gen. 33:17, 19 we find him building a house and buying land. This shows a very different mind to either his father or grandfather. It is not always either easy or pleasant to walk the pilgrim’s path. The One Who said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head,” (Matt. 8:20 & Luke 9:58), never found a place in this world to lay that holy head, until on the cross He said, “It is finished,” and laid down His head. (It is the same word in the Greek Testament and these are the only times it is used in this way in the New Testament). Was there ever any who trod this earth, in whom the Pilgrim’s Path shone so brightly! Every man might go to his own home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives; for Jesus had no home down here to which to go.
Jacob seems to have grown weary of the Pilgrim Path, and yielded to the temptation to settle down and build a home. And what was the fruit of this action? His daughter Dinah goes out to see the daughters of the land. Her father having settled down in the world, instead of being a heavenly pilgrim passing through it: what more natural than that his daughter should wish to be friends of the world? The sad, shameful result we all know. Who would have guessed that the exchange of a tent for a house could have yielded such bitter fruit? Yet so it is, and in our day, the friendship of the world is still enmity with God, and if we settle down in this world, and lose the spirit of a pilgrim, we can hardly blame our children if they seek the friendship of those amongst whom we have made our home.
The dishonor to the name of God, the horror and shame of the whole thing, even years later, in the forty-ninth of Genesis, come over Jacob’s soul far more forcibly than they appear to have done at the moment of the sin, and he cries: “Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce: and their wrath for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49:7). Levi was scattered in Israel as a punishment for that terrible sin, committed centuries before at Shechem. But now, for our encouragement, see the grace of God. The very punishment, the scattering in Israel, becomes an unspeakable blessing. This tribe is chosen to approach unto God, and they are scattered in Israel with the result that the knowledge of God and His Word through them may also be equally scattered in Israel. Once more He made the wrath of man to praise Him; and once more, out of the eater came forth meat. How encouraging!
We must not leave the consideration of Jacob and his sons without noticing the grace that gave to poor failing Jacob such a son as Joseph! I do not recall any failure recorded against Joseph. How we can thank God and take courage, as we see, again and again, His grace overleaping our sins. It is just this grace that we parents must count on today. And the story of Jacob, is the story of that grace from beginning to end.
“Lo, I am ever with thee!”
With me, whose name is “Cheater”?
O Lord, That could not be!
With Isaac, Yes, my Father!
But never, Lord, with me!
Yes, “I am ever with thee!”
“I’ll always guard thee safely!”
Guard me, Who robbed my brother?
Who now for life doth flee!
Guard me, they call “Deceiver”?
Thou’lt never, Lord, guard me!
Yes, “I will guard thee safely!”
“And to thy home I’ll bring thee!”
Bring me, ‘the worm called Jacob’!
O Lord, That this might be!
“And give thee food and raiment,”
Then GOD Thou’lt be to me!
Yes, “To thy Home I’ll bring thee!”
“For let thee down” I’ll never!
Nor never thee forsake
I’m Jacob’s God forever
These blessings each may take,
I say to each believer —
“No, Let thee down, I’ll never.”

Amram and Jochebed

Let us go on to Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses. What a delightful story it is in the second chapter of Exodus. The wife seems to have been the moving spirit here, and perhaps this is hardly to be wondered at, as Jochebed was Amram’s aunt. (Ex. 6:20). But there is no suggestion that Amram did not have his rightful place in that little home in Egypt. Heb. 11:23 tells us: “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” Those of us who have lived in a land dominated by a hostile foe can better appreciate the magnificent courage of this devoted couple, when they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. It was a trial of their faith; but we know that it was “much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire.” (1 Peter 1:7). And how God honored their faith! Each of their three children became one of His Own honored servants.
What a cheer to parents today, to take a stand boldly on the Lord’s side for their children, to count on Him alone, and to fear no man. Surely He will still honor such faith today, just as He honored it in the days of Amram and Jochebed.
But Jochebed teaches us another most lovely lesson. Pharaoh had charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river. Jochebed obeys the king. She owns that the king’s command applies to her son, and she casts him into the river: but hidden in an ark, so that not one drop of those waters of death could touch him. And God richly honors her faith. You all know the story. The king’s daughter takes him up, and the babe’s sister runs to “call a nurse”, who is no other than the child’s own mother. With what joy she takes that little one from the arms of the king’s daughter: not now for herself, but for the one who had saved him: “Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.”
So is it with us. Every Christian parent has the privilege of owning that the child, God has given them, is under the sentence of death. He may put the child down into those waters of death: owning that this is where the child belongs: but Another has passed through those waters first: and now the One on Whom we count to save our children, gives the child back to us, saying: “Take this child away, and nurse it for Me, and I will give thee thy wages.” It is ours no longer. The One into Whose hands we have placed it, has accepted it, and now returns it to us to bring up for Himself, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This does not mean that each child does not need a personal saving faith for itself: but it does, in God’s Own way, confess that the child is under the sentence of death: and we have the privilege of counting on the Lord who passed through those dark waters, to save it. We receive it back in a new way, no longer ours, but His to ‘nurse’ for Him; and what rich wages He pays, if we truly seek to do this for Himself.


We can hardly pass by the reference to the little ones that Pharaoh wanted left in Egypt (Ex. 10:10). It was a true father’s heart that replied: “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go.” How many parents there are who are content to be out of Egypt themselves, but satisfied to let their children remain in it. May God give to us parents grace to make a clean cut with the world for our children, as well as for ourselves, and for all we possess.
The awful judgment that cost Pharaoh his eldest son, was entirely the result of his unbelief. Should the eye of any unbelieving parent fall on this page, may you pause and consider, before it is eternally too late, what price your children may have to pay for your unbelief.
Before we go on to consider Aaron’s family, let us pause for a moment and catch a glimpse of family life in Egypt in the years preceding the time when Israel left Egypt. We see Moses in his natural zeal standing up for his own nation against their oppressors, for “he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.” (Acts 7:25). Evidently the expectation of deliverance filled Moses’ heart forty years before the time was ripe for Israel to leave Egypt. Indeed it may be that the Spirit of God was stirring the hearts of many in Israel at this time, and turning them to the God of their fathers. If we read the names of those who were “the renowned of the congregation” in Numbers and remember that “EI” means “GOD”, we cannot but be struck with the number of names of which this forms a part. For example, Num. 1:5, Elizur means “God is my rock”; Verse 6, Shelumiel means “Friend of God”; Verse 8, Nathaneel means “Given of God”. Verse 9, Eliab means “My God is Father”. And so we might continue.
These men had been born many years before the deliverance from Egypt came, and though their parents would seem to have been godly people, whose hope was truly in God, yet they had a long wait, and no doubt many of them passed off the scene, before the expected deliverance appeared. And there is a deeply important lesson for us in this wait. We are by nature so impatient. It is so hard for us to wait. Our expectation is in God, and if it is His will, He will bring it to pass; but often He permits us to wait long before turning our expectation into reality. What an encouragement to pray on, and to hope on. Jacob could say, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.” (Gen. 32:26); and in Hos. 12:4 the Spirit of God gives us His comment on this act. “Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him.” We so easily grow weary of the waiting and “let go”. The urgency of the desire passes away from us, as it did with Moses; and when at last the command comes to go and do the very thing he had tried to do forty years before, he all but refuses. But those forty years had not been wasted years, and now he goes in the strength of the Lord, whereas before he was going in his own strength. And we will find that the weary years of waiting have not been wasted years, but rather that God has taught us lessons in this waiting time, that could not have been learned in any other way.


Let us turn to Aaron’s family next. He had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar. In Leviticus, Chapters 8 and 9, we have a most interesting account, and a most solemn one, of the consecration of Aaron and his four sons. They were brought into the nearest place to God of any in Israel; no other young men possessed the privileges that were given to them.
Not only on their Father’s side were they sons of the High Priest, but on their mother’s side they were nephews of the Prince of Judah, the kingly tribe.
The ninth chapter of Leviticus ends with the glorious culmination of the whole eight days of consecration ceremonies, “And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat; which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”
How fearfully sad, then to find in the very first verses of the next chapter that Nadab and Abihu venture to offer to the Lord “strange fire”. And what was the result? “Fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” Their act may have been due to intoxication, judging from the ninth verse of the tenth chapter; but of this we cannot be sure. What a speedy and awful judgment on those in the place of greatest privilege, who venture to approach God in their own way! How terrible to see the eldest son, the one in line for the wondrous office of High Priest, cut off in a moment! But the greater the privilege the greater the responsibility.
“And Aaron held his peace.” A father’s heart goes out to Aaron in keenest sympathy, realizing a little of the agony of that moment. And while he opened not his mouth, did not his mind’s eye turn back about one year only, and did he not see himself making the golden calf, and even making the people naked in their horrible feasting before it? What an example to set before his sons! Was it any wonder that they should be careless as to the glory of God when they had seen their own father transgress so terribly! It does not lighten the stroke to know that I am in part, or altogether, responsible for my children’s sin and punishment. Like Aaron we can but bow in broken-hearted submission, and “hold our peace.”
But there is comfort as well as warning in Aaron’s family. How beautiful to see Eleazer his son step into his father’s place at his death! And as we follow Eleazer’s pathway from that time on through the Book of Joshua, and see his son Phinehas growing up to walk in the steps of his father and grandfather, it cheers and comforts the heart. (See Josh. 22). And indeed the honor of the priesthood, through these two sons, Eleazer and Ithamar, continued as long as the priesthood “after the order of Aaron” lasted. Now, another Great High Priest, after the order of Melchisedec, and not after the order of Aaron, has arisen; and in Him there is no failure.
It was grace, pure grace, that gave to Aaron this high honor, and this joy and blessing in his sons and grandson, even in spite of his grievous sin and failure. Thanks be to God, we have the same God, and the same grace, on which we may count, in spite of all our failure!


We come now to the family of Moses; here again, as in some of the families we have already considered, one is filled with shame to speak of the faults of these holy men of God; and yet it is for our admonition that these records have been left for our consideration. You will recall that in Ex. 2:21, we read of Moses’ marriage to Zipporah, daughter of Reuel (Ex. 2:18), or Jethro (Ex. 18:5). We must remember that Zipporah was a Gentile woman; and I hope that at some time you will each read and enjoy Mr. J. G. Bellett’s remarks about the line of famous Gentile women that entered into the most illustrious places in Israel. Zipporah was one of this remarkable line, which tells out to those who have ears to hear, of the Gentile bride that our Lord is preparing for Himself at the present time.
Moses had two sons, Gershom (A Stranger There) and Eliezer (My God is an Help), names which bear bright witness to the true and faithful heart of their father. In Ex. 4:24, 26 we have a hint that all was not well in Moses’ own household, and evidently Zipporah refused to allow the sons to be circumcised, for to her, apparently, it appeared to be a cruel, unnecessary custom. But Zipporah not only was quite out of her place of subjection, but quite wrong in choosing her own way, instead of bowing to God’s order. But before God could use His servant this must be set right, and his household, as well as he himself, must bear the mark which testifies of death. Finally, to save her husband’s life, Zipporah herself performs the act on her sons, but with the complaint: “Surely a bloody husband art thou to me!” It is well for us to remember that we cannot with impunity set aside God’s order, even though we may prefer our own way. Both Aaron’s family and Moses’ family tell us that we may not trifle, or choose our own path, in the things of God. Well is it indeed when father and mother together, with one heart, can join in acknowledging through God’s method, that death and blood-shedding is the only portion that is due by right to our offspring.
The years go by, and in Number 12:1 we read, “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” We know the stern rebuke that the Lord administered to Aaron and Miriam, and the terrible punishment of leprosy that fell on Miriam, for speaking against Moses. But that did not justify Moses in what he had done. As we remember that Moses was used of God to write these Books, we may read his own acknowledgment and confession of his act in these words, “For he had married an Ethiopian woman.” We are not told whether Zipporah was dead, or whether Moses had taken this woman, as well as his own wife. When Moses married Zipporah he was not in a position to take a wife of his own people; but now there was no such reason for taking one outside the people of God. However, the grace of God has drawn a veil over all the details of this matter, and we would not join with Aaron and Miriam in speaking against God’s honored servant. It is good to remember that it is no delight to the Spirit of God to expose the failings of the Lord’s people. Love covers sin when it can rightly do so, and so our God mercifully acts towards us.
But though so much is covered, perhaps these few allusions to the family life of Moses let us into a sad, sad secret of which few, even today, are aware. Can it be that God in His mercy has even now allowed the bitter shame that came to the grandchild of Moses to be covered to most, except to those who love His writings, and delight to dig beneath the surface of the Word? However that may be, if you will turn to the New Translation, or the Revised Version, of Judg. 18:30, there you will read the tragic words, “Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.” If this reading is correct, (and probably it is, though perhaps we may not be absolutely sure of it), then the first idol priest recorded in Israel was the grandson of Moses. It is too sad, too tragic, to discuss; and we perhaps do best to leave it, with just this bare statement, as God has left it, without comment; but does it not say to every parent, no matter how honored he may be; no matter how grace covers it up from the eye of man —yet the sad harvest of his own folly must be reaped.
But there is joy as well as sorrow as we trace the descendants of Moses, for “Shebuel the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, was ruler of the treasures.” (1 Chron. 26:24). And Shelomith, descended from Eliezer, Gershom’s brother, was another who was “over all the treasures of the dedicated things.” (1 Chron. 26:26). This was in the days of David. It is refreshing, indeed, to find these children of Moses entrusted with some of the most responsible work in the kingdom: especially when we remember that “Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Moses” was glad to share in the theft of Micah’s treasures. (Judg. 18:18-20).


It is a joy to turn to Caleb, and his daughter Achsah. We all know the story of Caleb and how he went to spy out the land with Joshua and ten others. The ten brought an evil report of the land, but Caleb and Joshua brought up a good report, and urged that Israel go up to possess Canaan immediately “for we be well able.”
We know the rest of the story and how all Israel refused to hearken, and had to turn back into the wilderness for forty years. And Caleb had to turn back with them, but I believe that Caleb’s heart was in Canaan through all those years. And I think that many an evening through those forty years, when the camp was pitched in that great and terrible wilderness, with those vast mountain peaks, red and bare, towering up to the sky, then little Achsah would sit with her brothers (1 Chron. 4:15), close up to their father; I expect Achsah was on his knee, with his arms around her, and maybe they had a bit of camp fire, and then Caleb would tell them a story, and I can just see them listening with breathless interest. There were stories of giants: real, true giant stories, giants that her own father had seen with his own eyes, and then he would tell about their castles, and the cities with walls up to heaven; and he would tell of the fruit, one bunch of grapes that had to be carried on a staff by two men; and the best part of all, he would end up that story by telling the children that through their God they were well able to overcome them, and that these cities and castles would one day soon belong to Israel. But perhaps the favorite story would be the story of Hebron. I suppose the story would start away back in the days of Abraham when his nephew Lot had taken first choice of the land, and gone to live near Sodom; then it was Abraham went and pitched his tent at Hebron, and built an altar there. And it was there Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah, to bury Sarah. In that same cave Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham their father, and there Isaac and Rebekah were buried, and there Jacob buried Leah his wife, and to the same cave was Jacob’s body brought from Egypt.
And sure I am that Caleb would tell the story of how Jacob sent Joseph his beloved child out from the Vale of Hebron; and all the lovely story that you children loved so well when you were little ones, would be told again to Achsah and her brothers. And the father would end the story by saying, “And that is our inheritance. Hebron, the dearest spot in all the land of Canaan is for us! It is ours!” It belongs to you children and to me! And he would tell how Moses sware on that day, saying, “Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s forever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God.” Yes, he would say, “Hebron is for me and for my children! That land is yours.” And I can see little Achsah’s eyes glisten as she takes it all in, and makes it all her own. She would know all about that bunch of grapes that had to be borne of two and she had heard all about the fruits of the land of Canaan. Yes, very likely she had had a taste of some of them.
And so, long before ever her eyes had seen the land of Canaan, her heart had learned to love its hills and valleys, its fruits and its pastures; and she had learned to value it at its true worth. For we learn best to love our own country when we are children.
Ah, you dear young parents, how little we are apt to value those evenings, perhaps with the children on our knees, or at our feet, in front of the fire —or maybe after they are in bed, and they say, “Tell us a story!” That is a chance you would give all you possess, later on, to have it once more. Now it is yours. Now you may teach them to love that Heavenly Land towards which you are traveling. Now is your chance to teach them the true worth of the Heavenly Country. The hearts are young, and the love is fresh and warm, now is your chance; a chance you will never never have again. I know the day has been ever so full; I know you are tired, I know how much easier it is to sing “Jesus, Tender Shepherd hear me”, and kiss them goodnight, but it is a golden opportunity lost, worth more than all the gold in this world.
How often do we only discover the marvelous opportunities we have had, when those opportunities have fled, and the sweet stories of old have lost their charm from contact with the sordid stories of this world.
But it was not his own child alone whose heart was won by these stories; his nephew Othniel, who was but a boy in those days, was also won. Perhaps Othniel learned to love not only the fields of Canaan, but also his fair young cousin Achsah, in those weary wilderness days: for we find that when they reached the promised land, and the fight for it had come in earnest, his Uncle Caleb says: “He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife:” then Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.
I think Othniel and Achsah were of one mind about the land of Canaan, and when she came to him, she moved him to ask of her father a field: but there was no need for Othniel to ask on her behalf, for the father himself loved her: and it was an unmixed joy to him that he had a daughter who loved the land that he loved.
Little wonder with such a father that Achsah wanted all she could get of that beloved inheritance. And I am sure it gladdened old Caleb’s heart to see his dear child get down off her ass, as she came up to him. He could see she wanted something, and so the question, “What wouldest thou?” Do you think he was vexed with the boldness of her request, “Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water.” Did he reply, “I’ve given you a south land already; is that not enough? Why should I give you any more?” No, no; Achsah was a daughter after his own heart, she valued the land of Canaan, and she wanted some of the springs of Canaan, and he gave her double as much as she asked for! That is just like our own Lord! “I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked.” (1 Kings 3:13).
What a joy to the old uncle’s heart must that nephew have been! He was a man after his own heart: one worthy of the daughter he loved so well. Nor was this all. As the years rolled by, and Israel departed from the Lord, so that His anger was hot against His people, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies, when they cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. Yes, Othniel was the first of that line of Deliverers, those Judges, that God raised up for Israel in their distress. I like to think that Othniel and Achsah were prepared for these honorable mentions in the Word of God, through the stories they had heard in the wilderness of the Land that not having seen they loved.
Lord, help us so to win the hearts of our children!
They tell us that the name ‘Caleb’ means ‘A Dog’, and we know that Caleb was famous above all else, because he wholly followed the Lord his God. See Num. 14:24; Josh. 14:8, etc. A good dog wholly follows his master, and is absolutely loyal to him. Perhaps it was this “spirit” (Num. 14:24) in Caleb that so greatly influenced his daughter. But godliness is not inherited, and, sad to say, we find Nabal, a man who was churlish and evil in his doings, of the “house of Caleb”. (1 Sam. 25:3).


How different to Achsah was her distant cousin Achan. Both were of the tribe of Judah, both were brought up in the wilderness, both crossed the Jordan and entered the land of Canaan, at the same time. Although only a young man, (his grandfather could not have been more than sixty), yet his heart was set —not on the springs and valleys of Carman —but, on a goodly Babylonian garment, and a wedge of gold. (Josh. 7:2).
What a solemn warning is wrapped up in this first public sin of Israel! How strange that Babylon should be involved! It was the very city that in the end brought ruin and desolation to the land of Judah. The Babylonian garment was to wear. It would be much more stylish, I suppose, than the garments of Canaan: and he had been wearing wilderness garments all his life; garments handed down, probably, from his father and grandfather, those wonderful garments that waxed not old; even we ourselves do not always value things handed-down, be they ever so good, and Achan had no heart to value such clothes, he wanted Babylonian garments.
We will have occasion to refer again to these garments as we near the end of Israel’s dwelling in the land of Canaan. Strangely enough we will find that as Babylonian fashions brought the first downfall, so it was Babylonian fashions that had to do with the last terrible collapse of the Kingdom at the end. (Ezek. 23:12-17; Zeph. 1:8).
But there was not only the Babylonian garment, there was also the wedge of gold, and two hundred shekels of silver. And, sad to say, there is that in our hearts and there is that in the hearts of your children, that will turn to gold and silver and to a Babylonian garment; a garment after the fashion of the world; and how terrible are some of the Babylonian garments we see today; may the Lord keep your darlings from ever coveting such as these.
There is something peculiarly searching to the heart of a Christian parent in the fact that in a list of 28 things in which a later Babylon trafficked, gold comes first, and the souls of men come last. (Rev. 18:12, 13).
May we see to it, that the souls of our children come first, and let gold come last, in our reckoning and trafficking. What sort of examples are we setting to our children? Remember they read us like a book! Do they see that our hearts are set on the springs of Canaan, or on the garments of Babylon? In our traffic, our business, our occupation every day, do they see Gold, or Souls of Men heading the list?
The fate of our children probably depends on the answer to these questions. Remember that Achan, and all his house, perished because of his covetousness. (Josh. 7:24).
I suppose the very fact that Achan’s father and grandfather are so clearly pointed out, and identified with him in a sense, would give us a hint that the responsibility for his sin went back even to them.


Again our hears are to be refreshed as we see the rich reward that God delights to give to faith; for children are the heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward. (Psa. 127:3). But children were not the only reward that God gave to Rahab.
You all know the story. You know she was a Canaanite Gentile: one of those appointed to utter destruction. You know she was a harlot. But have you ever pondered her faith, and the reward she won for it? You remember her name is inscribed on that `Honor Roll of Faith’ in Heb. 11.
In Josh. 2:9, she says: “I know that the Lord hath given you the land.... for we have heard how the Lord hath dried up the water of the Red Sea for you....” She speaks the true language of faith: “I know,” not, “I think,” or, “I expect,” but “I know.” There is real faith. Faith cometh by hearing: they all had heard in Jericho, but only Rahab believed, —had faith —so only Rahab knew. Note how individual the matter is: She says: “We have heard;” but, “I know.” She knew that the Lord, Jehovah, had given Israel the land: she knew that certain judgment and destruction awaited Jericho, and so she pleads, not for her own life only, but “that ye will show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: that ye will save my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
And what was the result? Did the Lord tell her that she asked too much? Did He say, “No Rahab, you may be saved: but your house cannot be saved on your faith.” Indeed He said no such thing: His promise was to “all thy father’s household.” (2:18). It reminds us of the wonderful promise to the jailor at Philippi: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31). Let none suppose there must not be individual faith for salvation. Surely there must. But God’s Own way is that the individual may put in his claim, by faith, for all the household: and that is just what Rahab did. She did not interpret that word household in the narrow way some of our friends try and interpret it today, going to endless trouble to prove, what cannot be proved, that there were no little children in the households of the New Testament. (Acts 16:15, 31, 33, 34; 1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15). They hope thus to prove that today we may not copy Rahab, and bring our little ones with us into the external place of blessing which we enjoy. But all such labor is directly opposed to the current of Scripture and the free grace of God.
No, when the spies went to bring Rahab outside the doomed city, from that house that was sheltered by the scarlet line in the window, they found there “her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her families, and left them without the camp of Israel.” (Josh. 6:23, Margin). They did not say: “Rahab, you have taken this word ‘household’ to mean too many.” On the contrary the Lord delights to record the breadth of Rahab’s faith; and He honors it to the full. I doubt not He might have said to her, as to another woman of Canaan: “O Woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” (Matt. 15:28). No, it is not a God-honoring faith that refuses to bring our household into God’s place of blessing along with ourselves: it is on the contrary, I sadly fear, ignorance or unbelief of God’s heart of matchless grace: narrow, God-dishonoring unbelief.
But the salvation of “all her families” was only the beginning of her reward. You know Rahab: but do you know her husband and her son? She was only a harlot in Jericho; but who was she in Israel? She married Salmon (Matt. 1:5), who was the son of Nahshon, prince of the children of Judah, (1 Chron. 2:11): the leader of the tribe that had marched first through the wilderness. (Num. 10:14). And so she was brought directly into the royal line of Israel, into one of the most honored families of all, and became an ancestor of the promised Messiah, and is one of the four women mentioned in the genealogy of our Lord.
Nor was this all. Nahshon’s sister, Elisheba, (our Elizabeth), was wife of Aaron the chief priest. What a place for a poor Canaanite harlot to be brought into! Daughter-in-law to the royal prince of Israel, niece by marriage to the chief priest, mentioned by name in the genealogy of the Messiah, where even the names of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel are passed over, mentioned again in the grand list of Faith in Heb. 11; and in addition to all, God gave her a son, Boaz, meaning ‘strength’, who had for his wife Ruth the Moabitess, also mentioned by name in the royal line; and Boaz and Ruth were the great-grandparents of David the King. Such was the reward of Rahab’s faith.

The Daughters of Zelophehad

Perhaps we should not include these five young ladies: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah; names that are to endure forever. But they so remind us of Achsah, of whom I am so fond, that I could not resist at least a mention of them. They had no brothers, only girls in that family; but they also had learned to love and value the Land of Promise, and long before they reach that land, they come to Moses and plead their cause. Because we are girls, are we not to have an inheritance in that glorious land? “Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.” Moses does not know what to do, so he brings the matter before the Lord, and did the Lord ever turn away any girl or boy, daughter or son? Nay, I am sure it rejoiced His heart to find five girls who so valued the Land which in His eyes was the glory of all lands. And so we hear His judgment: “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right.” (Num. 27).
But what would happen if they married into another tribe? And so in chapter 36, a special law must be enacted, and a whole chapter of the Bible given up, for the daughters of Zelophehad.
Nor is this all. These girls are determined not to miss their portion or be overlooked, and so we find them again in Josh. 17 coming near before Eleazer the priest and Joshua, again pressing for that inheritance.
And they got it. But more, I am sure that when the Spirit of God is willing to devote so much space telling us of these young women, it is because their conduct was such a delight to Heaven. I think Zelophehad must have taught them, as Caleb must have taught Achsah, to love the land they had never seen.
“And He hath built a City,
Of love, and light, and song,
Where the eye at last beholdeth
What the heart had loved so long.
And there is mine inheritance,
My kingly palace-home;
The leaf may fall and perish,
Not less the spring will come.”


We can hardly pass by the tragic end of Gideon’s sons threescore and ten persons, slain upon one stone. It seems strange, when we remember the bright beginning to the story of Gideon. But was there not a cause? Alas, once again we find there surely was a reason for this tragedy. It was Abimelech, “the son of his maid-servant” (Judg. 9:18), who murdered his seventy brothers. We read in Judg. 9:30 that Gideon “had many wives.” This in itself was not of God; but it made it still more inexcusable that he should take his “maid-servant” as concubine. It was the gratification of this lust that caused the death of all these sons of Gideon.
But that is not quite all. You recall that after Gideon’s famous victory over the princes of Midian that “the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.” (Judg. 8:22-23). This was a noble answer, in keeping with the faith that had won such a notable victory.
But as Gideon grew older, his faith grew more dim, and I fear his pride increased; and when his concubine, the maid-servant, bare him a son, “he called” him, “Abimelech.” (Judg. 8:31). And what does `Abimelech’ mean? It means “My Father is King.” The very place he had refused in his early days, now he seeks to seize, and his son’s name betrays his sad fall. “My Father” (that is, Gideon) “is King”: sad, sad departure from the noble faith he once had. Then he had said: “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you.” Now he seeks the place of king, and his maid-servant’s son seizes this place, at the cost of all his brothers, except the youngest. Terrible result of their father’s self-indulgence and pride: but “what a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”


We see the bitter grief of a father’s heart in Jephthah. He was truly a man of faith, and is listed among the “faithful” in Heb. 11. But it was his own folly in making a rash and hasty vow that brought such bitter trouble on him, even the loss of his only child.
How often we parents fail as Jephthah failed! How often we utter a rash or impatient word! A word that we would give anything to recall, but it is too late. The damage has been done.
I well remember an evening long ago when our eldest boy was perhaps four years old. He and I were planting seeds in the garden. He loved to help me, and I loved to have him help. He seemed to thoroughly believe in the word “He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully”, and he sowed with such a lavish hand that my little stock of seeds was rapidly diminishing. I tried without success to change his methods, and at last in desperation I said, very impatiently, “Oh!” The little child was terribly hurt, and without a word he turned and left me. It was, I suppose, months before he would help me again. Gladly would I have given him all the seeds and all the garden to be able to recall those two words; but it was too late. The tone in which I had spoken, (more than the words, perhaps) had wounded him so deeply that the scar may always remain.
How little we realize at times how exceedingly sensitive some children are, and how even a smile, a gesture, or a thoughtless or impatient word may be like a poisoned arrow “left carelessly, cruelly rankling” in the little one’s heart.
And how lightly and rashly do we make “vows”, or promises, to the children: “If you do that again I will punish you.” The child knows you do not mean it, and does it again, and escapes the punishment. It is a victory for the child, and a help towards his ruin. Most of us badly need to learn our lessons from Jephthah.


We go on to Samson. Here we see a child of promise, and one who gave the brightest promise. We see godly parents, and a true desire to bring their son up as he should go, “and the child grew and the Lord blessed him.” (Judg. 13:24)
The Mother was apparently the stronger character, but there seems no suggestion that she acted in a way that was out of her place, or unseemly. If there was failure on the part of the parents in bringing up the boy, the Scriptures seems to have drawn a veil over it. The lesson for us parents in Samson’s history seems to be of a different kind. It is one of those parts of the Word of God in which parents through the comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.
A strong, willful, wayward young man was Samson.
We might say the parents should not so easily have yielded to his demand, “Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.” (Judg. 14:3). And very probably this is true. Is not Samson, just here, a true picture of modern youth? “She pleaseth me well”, or, “It pleaseth me well”, is too often sufficient reason for youth (or old age) to act in many things. They quite forget the One of Whom it is said. “Even Christ pleased not Himself.”
The parents may have failed in giving way to their son’s desires, though the Scriptures do not say so; on the contrary they tell us that “his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord.” (Judg. 14:4). And what comfort this brings to us in our failure, we may see inscribed in golden letters: “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” (Judg. 14:14). Every effort the enemy made to dishonor the Name of the God of Israel, He turned to work sorrow for the enemy and glory to His Own Name.
This in no way excuses Samson for all his willfulness and sin, but it does bring great comfort to an aching heart to know that the “prerogative of God is to bring good out of evil”—meat from the eater— sweetness from the strong. He still “maketh the wrath of man to praise Him,” and the old verse is still true, “We do know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”
Such are some of the lessons of comfort that the story of Samson would teach us parents. And we do well to remember that Samson’s name appears in the honor lists of Hebrews Eleven.

Elimelech and Naomi

It is a sad story to follow Elimelech (meaning “My God is King”) from the fields of Bethlehem (“The House of Bread”), out from the Land of Israel, to the land of Moab. It is sad indeed to see one of the people of God leave the place where He reigns, to take shelter under the rule of a stranger (Ruth 1:1). But the verse before Ruth 1:1, reads: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” And it looks very much as though Elimelech, in spite of his name, was following the general custom of the country, and doing what was right in his own eyes.
Indeed, to take such a serious step, as to leave his native land, would seem to tell us it was not the first time that he had done what was right in his own eyes; and the names of his two sons, Mahlon meaning “Great Weakness”; and Chilion meaning “Pining, or Consuming, or Consumption”, would tell us that the fruit of his own way had brought weakness and sorrow into his family. His feeble sons, and now a famine in the land, should have made him stop, and “consider his ways”. But it was not so.
And so it came about that Elimelech forsook the land where God was at least supposed to rule, and went to the land where Balak once reigned, and where the prophet Balaam had once sought to curse Israel. It seems a strange place for one bearing the name of “My God is King”, Elimelech, to seek refuge; but where will we not go, when we do what is right in our own eyes? And the father should have remembered that it was not so many years since the daughters of Moab had been the means of bringing a terrible snare, and an awful destruction, on the people of God; one would have thought he would have hesitated to take his two sons to the spot where they would meet the daughters of Moab again.
But when once we set our hearts on doing what is right in our own eyes, the blessed stories and warnings of Scripture are easily swept aside, and we go forward boldly in the path of our choice. The inevitable result followed, both boys chose girls of Moab to be their wives; and the law of Israel was clear, the Moabite was not to enter the land of Israel, no, not to the tenth generation (Deut. 23:3). But the Word of God had lost all power in their souls, Elimelech had forgotten that God was his king, and their only thought was to do what was right in their own eyes.
Then Death comes. God has ways of speaking that will force us to listen, if we persist in turning away from the ‘still small voice’. May God grant that this dread Messenger may not be needed with you, my dear ones, in order that the Almighty may get your ear. The father, and both sons, are claimed by the King of Terrors, and Naomi is left, broken-hearted and alone. And yet not alone, for she has her two Moabite daughters-in-law. We know not how long the girls had lived with their Mother-in-law; probably some years, for the family had lived in Moab about ten years. But this we do know, that in those years they had learned to love this one who was a stranger in their land. Her chaste conversation had won the hearts of her daughters-in-law. (1 Peter 3:1). And when Naomi rises up to go back to her native land, both girls go with her; a sweet reward for a consistent life. God is not unrighteous to forget such a walk, even though it be in the land of strangers; nor will He ever turn away one, even a Moabite, who comes to Him in faith.
You know the story as well as I do, and I must not take space to tell it again, no matter how much we love it; but I cannot resist quoting Ruth’s magnificent answer to her Mother-in-law’s appeal to follow Orpah back “unto her people, and unto her gods.” (Oh, Naomi, how could you utter such words? How could you seek, and succeed in your efforts, to drive away one who was ready to follow you to the land where the true God reigns as King?) But Ruth would not be moved. The bonds of love were too strong, and the hearts of countless millions have stirred at her grand reply: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
Glorious words! A rich reward for a quiet, consistent life at home, the true result of “chaste conversation”. How the Spirit of God delights to record such an utterance, coming from the lips of a Gentile stranger! What a cheer to Naomi’s heart! How that sad, broken heart must have thrilled to hear those words. “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Evidently the choice had never been made before, but now the gods of Moab are to be left behind forever, and the Lord God of Israel is to be her God to the end.
How this story comforts the hearts of parents who see with agony a son or daughter becoming enamored with one whom they well know is unsuited as a life-partner. How helpless is the parent in such a case. God is our only resource, and what relief to turn the whole matter to Him in prayer; and if, as may indeed be the case, this false step is only the fruit of sin and failure on the part of the parent; what comfort to turn to these holy pages and drink in such a story; and see how once again our gracious, loving, patient, Mighty God turns our failure to His Own glory, and makes the eater again yield meat, and the strong once more give sweetness.
There may indeed be an agony of remorse at such a time. Bitter sorrow may, and doubtless will, follow; so that the aged mother asks that her name “Naomi” meaning “Pleasant” be changed to “Marah” meaning “Bitter”. And can there be help in such a calamity? Yes, the story of Ruth brings back to the brokenhearted parent both faith and hope.
And grace crowns all; grace gives the young widow another husband: Boaz, “Strength”, in place of Mahlon, “Great Weakness”; a husband whose own Mother was a Gentile, and who can enter as none other could into all the innermost thoughts of her heart, and understand. Grace gives a little baby to that girl who so recently had been a poor, lonely, childless, hopeless, young widow; and Grace comforts the heart of the sad, lonely, bitter, old widow, also. And that little child is the grandfather of David, perhaps the brightest ornament of all Jewish history; until came “great David’s greater Son.”
Soft the voice of mercy sounded,
Sweet as music to the ear,
“Grace abounds, where sin abounded;”
This the word that soothed our fears.
Grace, the sweetest sound we know,
Grace to sinners here below.
Grace, we sing, God’s grace through Jesus;
Grace, the spring of peace to man;
Grace, that from each sorrow frees us;
Grace too high for thought to scan;
Grace, the theme of God’s own love;
Grace, the theme all themes above.
(T. Kelly)


The sweet story of Hannah and Elkanah comes next before us. There is peculiar comfort to a parent’s heart in this Mother’s faith. You remember Hannah was so grieved over her adversary’s vexatious teasing, because she had no son, that she could not even eat. She did the right thing, the very best thing she could have done; she took it to the Lord in prayer. And this, the most obvious thing for a Christian parent to do, is often just where we fail. The children vex us, our friends vex us with criticism and comparisons. Our relations vex us often with well-meant advice, but do not in the least understand the real conditions. How often we let these things vex us, like Hannah did, so that we can hardly eat. Let us follow her example and take it all to the Lord in prayer. It was not entirely easy, there were trials, one might almost say opposition and criticism, from the one who ought to have given help and sympathy; but that only served on the one hand to impress that day’s prayer the more deeply on the heart of the sorrowing woman and the old priest; and on the other hand, to draw from Eli himself that wonderful benediction: “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition which thou past asked of Him.” How deep the comfort and consolation of these words to that wounded heart we may judge by the fact that several years later she herself uses almost these very words.
And now: notice what happens: her countenance is no more sad. That is the true result of prayer. As we pour out our complaint, and roll our burden on the Lord, He lifts the burden, and our sorrow and vexation is turned to peace that passeth all understanding. “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanks-giving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God that passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” So was it with Hannah, and that incomprehensible peace did keep her soul, and change her countenance. It reminds us of our own blessed Lord. “As He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered.” I know the meaning is entirely different, and the circumstances of a special and extraordinary character; but in a certain sense it is true even of us, in our own prayer: as we pray, really pray, the fashion of our countenance is altered.
And now, some years later, when the child is weaned, she takes him up to the Tabernacle to old Eli, the one whose words had wrought such comfort to her embittered soul. “For this boy I prayed”, she says, “and Jehovah has granted me my petition which I have asked of Him”. (New Translation).
How many a Mother and Father can echo those words, “For this boy I prayed!” How often the boys (and the girls, too) bring us to our knees! Be not discouraged, Father and Mother, the Lord does hear as you ask for that boy. Go on praying for him, and “Go in peace, and may God grant thee thy petition which thou hast asked of Him.”
But there is another lesson for us parents to learn from Hannah. She gave up her claim on her boy, and loaned him to the Lord as long as he lived. Surely this is the right way for each of us. Another mother in later years, wrote:
“Joyfully, gladly, my son I give to Thee;
And still I deem him Thy choice gift to me,
What Thou hast given, with joy, I give again,
And yet what pain in joy, and joy in pain.”
May God help every one of us parents to hold the children God has given us, as the most sacred trust which it is possible for God to put into our keeping. Some are “stewards” of the Lord’s goods, but how much heavier a responsibility to be put in trust with precious, never-dying souls, to train and prepare for Himself and His service!
And there is only one right way to do this. These precious gifts must be given back— “loaned” (see New Translation) “to the Lord” as long as they live.
(Notice, also, the marginal reading of 1 Sam. 1:28, in our ordinary English Bible) —and then, as we realize Whose they are, not only will we realize more solemnly our responsibility, but we will also know more deeply the One Who is ready and willing to give the infinite grace, patience and wisdom that are required to train them for Himself. Notice, too, that the parents “slew a bullock and brought the child to Eli.” We can only give our children back to the Lord through death, an acknowledgment that they only deserve death, but that Another died for them.
And it is well for us to remember that when we loan them to the Lord, the Lord accepts the loan, and from that day and onward they are His. Hannah did not go, after a few months, and bring her boy home again to have him with her for a while. It was a definite transaction that she carried out with the Lord in all seriousness, and the Lord accepted her loan. Too often we are apt to forget this, and act as if those children loaned to the Lord were our own, and we train them for their own profit, or for ourselves, or the world, and not for Him to Whom alone they belong.
Thine, Savior, Thine —
No more this child of mine
Belongs to me, but loaned to Thee
Is Thine for aye, henceforth to stay
As wholly Thine.


It is sad to turn from Hannah’s son to Eli’s sons. “His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Sam. 3:13). The wickedness of Eli’s sons is too well known to make it necessary for us to enter into the details of either the sins or the judgment (See 1 Sam. 3:13). The Lord Himself has summed it all up in the verse just quoted, and He has given us the reason for both sins and judgment: “He restrained them not.” Eli was ninety eight years old, and at that time remonstrated with his sons, but it was too late, “They hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.” (1 Sam. 2:25). There is, perhaps, no passage in the Scriptures that should speak more solemnly to the hearts of us parents than this sad story; may we each one heed it, and learn the lesson. Probably two or three good spankings when they were small would have saved those boys, not only from an untimely death, but their souls from hell. It is not the fashion in these days, in some quarters, to spank the children; but how clearly the Scriptures speak: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Prov. 23:13. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Prov. 13:24. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Prov. 22:15. “The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Prov. 29:15, 17. “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Prov. 19:18. These Scriptures make very clear the will of God in this most important matter. And note these Scriptures call for a really good punishment with a stick, that does not stop for the child’s crying.
And we might, in passing, note the urgency of early training. “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6. What a contrast between Hannah’s son, and Eli’s sons! Little doubt that Samuel’s good and devoted mother used her brief, but precious time when she had her boy, to train him up as he should go. We may well believe that she did not follow Eli’s failure, but “restrained” him. And it may be that in his old age Eli had learned his lesson, and when God in His grace entrusted a new little life to the care of this failing father, he seems to have brought up Hannah’s son very differently to the way in which he had brought up his own.
The modern theory of allowing our children to develop their own ways, in “self-expression”, can lead only to sorrow and disaster. How much better to heed the clear Word of God in this most important matter of bringing up our little ones.


Perhaps the saddest part of this whole sad story, and the most surprising, is that Samuel himself does not seem to have learned this lesson, in spite of all he had heard and seen. When he was old, Samuel “made his sons judges over Israel.... and his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.” (1 Sam. 8:1-3). Godliness is not inherited, and it is only by constant watchful, prayerful care that we can hope to train up our children in the way they should go.
But even in this sad story of failure and repeated failure, there is a bright side. Samuel’s eldest son was Joel (1 Sam. 8:1) and he is especially mentioned in connection with the failure of Samuel’s sons. But in 1 Chron. 6:33, we find that Joel’s eldest son, Heman, held a most honored place as one of the Singers, and in 1 Chron. 25:1 we find him linked with Asaph and Jeduthun “who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals;” and in verse 4 we find fourteen sons of Heman, “all these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn. And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord.”
Perhaps the words “under the hands of their father”, would tell us that this delightful family of seventeen children, all of whom sang, were together in subjection to their father, very different to the families of Eli and Samuel. How cheering also, is it to find Samuel’s grandson spoken of as “the king’s seer in the words of God”; almost the same position as that of his honored grandfather.
And there is another point we must notice: not only did this whole family serve the Lord together, but they worked in harmony with their cousins, the sons of Asaph, and the sons of Jeduthun. How often do we see jealousy and criticism between cousins, but behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren —and cousins —to dwell together in unity.
How cheering to find Samuel’s grandson and great-grandchildren walking this good and pleasant pathway together. What an encouragement to our hearts to count on the grace of God, not to excuse our failure, but for that grace to come in when we humble ourselves, and, in His own way, perhaps after a long and weary time of waiting, bring deliverance.
There is just one word more, the story of Hannah tells us of the great influence that the mother holds in the life of our children. Generally the father is away all day, and sees comparatively little of the children, compared to their mother; and so of necessity her influence is very great. I presume that it is for this reason that in the history of the kings of Israel and Judah almost always the name of the mother is recorded. She was the one in so many cases who formed the character of her son. Would that all children had such good and wise mothers as Hannah, or as Lemuel’s mother, in Prov. 31:1.


Perhaps the first intimation that something was wrong in David’s family life was when he began to multiply wives. You will recall that he bought his first wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter with the lives of two hundred of the king’s enemies. But in 1 Sam. 25 we find that David took to wife both Abigail (formerly wife of Nabal the Carmelite, of the family of Caleb), and Ahinoam the Jezreelite.
Now God had distinctly warned the king that He should choose, that he should not “multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away.” (Deut. 17:15, 17). David well knew that God had chosen him to be king. He had anointed him king when he was still a youth and ruddy. But in deliberate disobedience to the clear command of God, addressed especially to himself, David began to multiply wives.
Never can any of us ever lightly disobey the Word of God in any way, and expect not to reap a bitter harvest from our disobedience. How little did David realize that the evil of yielding to this particular lust of the flesh, would be so greedily followed by his illustrious son, until it became the cause of his ruin; and the loss and ruin of a large part of his kingdom. It is an evil thing and bitter to forsake the Lord, or any of His commands. (Jer. 2:19). Another has pointed out that the very word “passions”, the lusts to which we so often yield, is an eloquent word that tells of the sufferings that are sure to follow: for one meaning of “passion” is suffering.
David’s third son was Absalom, meaning “Father of Peace”, which tells us the longing of David’s heart for peace, after the long weary years of war and wandering. But who was Absalom’s mother? Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. This was worse and worse. Not only did David multiply wives, but in order to find wives of royal birth, he turned to the heathen nations about him. This was also in express disobedience and defiance of God’s oft-repeated command that they were not to take wives from the heathen nations around them. How could David expect a blessing from the offspring of such a match? It was little use giving the son of this wife a name with such a beautiful meaning, when he was born of a marriage made in deliberate disobedience to the clear Word of God.
Nor did the trouble end there. Absalom was a peculiarly handsome man: “In all Israel, there was none to be so much praised for his beauty; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, there was no blemish in him.” (2 Sam. 14:25). We can well understand such a handsome boy and young man being greatly spoiled by such praises.
In 1 Kings 1:6 we read of Adonijah, the son of Haggith, who was next in age to Absalom; and the divine record of his upbringing is peculiarly sad: “His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why past thou done so?” What a solemn, and what a true, practical, demonstration of words written a little later by one of Adonijah’s half-brothers. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” How very different might have been the history of David and Solomon, and all that followed after, had David’s sons had a few good spankings when they were small.
Adonijah “also was a very goodly man, and his mother bore him after Absalom.” We perhaps are not wrong in supposing that Absalom’s upbringing was along the same lines as that of his younger brother; so that we have an unspeakably sad picture of these two handsome boys, much of an age, brought up without correction of any kind, but allowed to do their own will, and go their own way, a way that led each to an early and violent death. We call this method of upbringing “self-expression” in our day, and there are those who are fools enough to advocate it; but the practical result, as told forth by the Holy Spirit, should give to each of us such a warning that we may thankfully flee from this wicked and senseless method of bringing up children, to that laid down in God’s Word.
But we must follow David further. In 2 Sam. 11:1 we read, “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah.” But David himself stayed at home in his palace. Why did King David stay at home when it was “the time that kings go forth to battle?” Was it indolence? So it would appear. Joab and his servants and all Israel are out fighting, and David the king is in his house idle! This is a different story to the early, or to the later years, of David’s life. “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do,” and we need not wonder that he provided a snare into which David only too easily fell.
“It came to pass in an evening tide that David rose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house.” It all tells of self-indulgence, idleness and indolence. And all this time Joab and his servants and all Israel were out fighting the King’s battles. The sad story continues: “And from the roof he saw a woman washing herself, and the woman was very beautiful.” Why, oh, why, did not David instantly turn his eyes away? The earlier indulgence of his lust had seared that tender conscience that is of such priceless value, and instead of turning away his eyes, he lusted after her, and was not satisfied until he had obtained the object of his lust.
Any of us might have easily done the same thing had we been in David’s place. Most of us have not been sufficiently careful to keep our own conscience entirely tender and unsullied, or quick enough to turn our eyes from sights that stir our passions, to be able to throw stones at David.
And the rest of the sad and humiliating story of lying and murder, might have been a record of writer or reader, had we been placed in the same circumstances, but for the grace of God. But even such a sin can be forgiven, and on the brokenhearted cry: “I have sinned against the Lord,” comes the instant rejoinder, “The Lord also path put away thy sin.”
But such sowing must bring a harvest, and we see it in wave after wave of trouble that swept over the king in his later years. The little babe, given through this wicked act, dies; and David bows to this stroke of discipline. But there is more. What David had done to Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife; now his eldest son, Amnon, does to Tamar, David’s fair daughter. Sad, sad record. Little wonder when king David heard of all these things he was very wrath (2 Sam. 13:25). But did David realize that it was he himself, who had set the wicked example before his eldest son of the sin that now so angered and humiliated him?
Nor was this all. Tamar was full sister to Absalom, and Amnon’s evil deed so filled his heart with hatred of his brother, that he does not rest until he has murdered him. And then follows more sad reaping of bad seed sown years before. Absalom flees the country to find refuge, instead of punishment, with his heathen, maternal grandfather, Talmai king of Geshur. There he feels himself safe from the vengeance that should, according to the law of God, have fallen on him.
You know the sad story of temporary banishment, and then a return and even a kiss of forgiveness from his outraged father, without one single word of saying, “Father I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”
Then follows the plotting and the stealing of the hearts of the men of Israel (2 Sam. 15:6). The conspiracy comes to a head, and Absalom sends for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor. (2 Sam. 15:12). “And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God.” (2 Sam. 16:23.) How was it Absalom had the insolence to send for David’s trusted counselor? This was another bit of sorrowful reaping of former sin. Ahithophel appears to have been Bathsheba’s grandfather, and we can well understand that he had never forgiven David for his treatment of his granddaughter. (Compare 2 Sam. 11:3 and 23:34).
We follow the sad, dark picture; brightened it is true by glimpses of devotion by Ittai the Gittite; and others, old and young, Israelite and strangers, but all faithful followers of a rejected king. But the picture as a whole grows darker and sadder, until we watch the agonized grief of that noble king, as he hears of the death of his wicked son. It is one of the very saddest sights that God in His wisdom shows us in all His Book. I suppose there is hardly a sadder cry than the one which was wrung from that father’s broken heart: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.” None but a parent can understand the awful depths of anguish contained in that bitter, bitter cry.
Very different was the death of the infant child of Bathsheba, as recorded in 2 Sam. 12. There David could say: “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Well did David know that the separation from his well-beloved son, Absalom, was an eternal one. Perhaps there is nothing so sad as death without hope. Death, the King of Terrors, and after death, the certain knowledge of judgment; with punishment, eternal, unending punishment, beyond. May no Christian parent know the heartbreaking grief of such a separation.
But even this is not the end of the sad story. When Nathan came to David after his terrible sin, and told him the story of the rich man who had taken his poor neighbor’s one little ewe lamb, David had, in righteous indignation, sentenced that rich man to restore him “four-fold.” (2 Sam. 12:6). But the prophet had replied: “Thou art the man”; and God permitted David’s sentence to remain against himself. We have seen three of David’s “lambs” taken from him: but a fourth must go; and we read the sad story of Adonijah’s death in 1 Kings, chapters 1 and 2, especially 2:24, 25. In very truth “the rich man” restored “four-fold.”
Such was the unspeakably bitter fruit, whose beginning was one step in disobedience to the Word of God. Lord, keep us!


Amidst all the sorrow on which we have just been gazing, there shines out the faithful love of Ittai the Gittite. You remember that Goliath also was a Gittite, so Ittai and Goliath originally came from the same place, Gath, and perhaps were friends. I like to think, though of course I may be quite wrong, that Ittai was first attracted to David when he slew the champion on whom Ittai had trusted. Later David went to Achish, king of Gath, for refuge from Saul (1 Sam. 21), taking with him Goliath’s sword. Little wonder they did not receive him as a friend, and that David had to feign himself mad to escape; but once again Ittai must have seen, or heard, of the one he was later to follow. On towards the end of his wanderings, David’s faith and patience seem to have failed, and once more he turns to Gath for refuge.
This time he is received by the king, and given a city in which to live; indeed Achish promises to make David the “keeper of mine head forever.” (Chapters 27 and 28). Was it during these days of rejection that Ittai learned to know and love David? We know not certainly whether this were so or not; but we may suppose such was the case. And Ittai takes all his men and all his little ones, and leaves the land of the Philistines, his native land, attracted (not by the prosperity of the land of Israel) but by the person of Israel’s king. How long he enjoyed the prosperity of the land we know not, it was “but yesterday” he came, as David expressed it. And now the king is once more driven out, and again tastes what it is to be rejected. Most of Israel side with the rebel, but there is not a moment’s hesitation with Ittai. He and all his men and his little ones at once leave the land of their adoption to follow the rejected King wherever he may lead. The King says to him, “Wherefore goest thou also with us? Return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger and also an exile. Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren; mercy and truth be with thee.” How our hearts thrill at the answer, “As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.” It reminds us of Ruth’s answer to Naomi. Both were Gentile strangers. It was the mighty power of love that had drawn and won and filled completely their hearts, so that land and kindred were left behind without a thought. Well did they know the meaning of the words: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37-38).
What must that reply of Ittai’s meant to David’s heart at that moment? His reply is so short: “Go and pass over.” Not one word of thanks or praise. Why was this? I think David’s heart was too full for words at that moment; and Ittai understood. There are times when heart enters into heart so closely that words are not needed, indeed they only jar, and are out of place.
And so “Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.” And that night when the little ones’ bedtime came, there were no warm cozy beds; but on and on they walked, down those steep, wild hills to the river Jordan, and on through its dark waters in the dead of night; how strange it must all have been! I can hear those little ones: “Daddy, where are we going? Why did we leave our house, Daddy?” And Ittai answers: “We are following the King!” That is enough, and I venture to say the hearts of those little ones are rivetted to their King with bonds of love that never can be broken.
Oh, my dear ones, seek to lead your little darlings to know and love their King; seek to win their affections for Him while they are still little. Do you suppose those children pined for the comforts, ease and luxury of the home they had left behind, when with their parents they wandered, following the King? Even to a child, such a thought would be rejected as utterly unworthy.
“Wherefore goest thou with me?”
Said the king disowned —
Said the king, despised, rejected,
“Go return unto thy place,
To thy king of yore —
Here a pilgrim and a stranger,
Nothing more.
“Not for thee the cities fair,
Hills of corn and wine —
All was portioned ere thou earnest,
Naught is thine.
“Wandering forth where’er I may,
Exiled from mine own,
Shame, rejection I can grant thee;
That alone.
“Turn and take thy brethren back,
With thy people dwell;
I have loved thee, I, the outcast;
Fare thee well.”
Then unto the crownless king
On the Kidron’s shore,
All the wilderness before him,
Ittai swore,
“As the Lord lives and the king,
Ever lord to me,
Where in death or life he dwelleth
I will be.”
“Go —pass over,” spake the king;
Then passed Ittai o’er;
Passed into the place of exile
From the shore.
He and all his little ones,
Granted by that word,
Shame, rejection, homeless wandering
With their lord.
“Go —pass over,” words of grace,
Spoken, Lord, to me,
That, in death or life, where
Thou art I might be.
Dead and crucified with Thee,
Passed beyond my doom;
Sin and law forever silenced
In thy tomb.
Passed beyond the mighty curse,
Dead, from sin set free;
Not for Thee earth’s joy and music,
Not for me.
Dead; the sinner past and gone,
Not the sin alone;
Living where Thou art in glory,
On the throne.
Hidden there with Christ in God,
That blest life I share;
Christ it is Who liveth in me —
Liveth there.
“He Who serves Me”, spake His lips,
“Let him follow Me,
And where I am shall My servant
Ever be.”
Follow, where His steps lead on,
Through the golden street;
Far into the depths of glory
Track His feet.
Till unto the throne of God,
Of the Lamb, I come;
There to share the blessed welcome,
Welcome home!
There with Him Whom man rejected,
In the light above,
Those whom God His Father honors,
Such His love.
(Paul Gerhardt)

Barzillai the Gileadite

“Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old; and he had provided the king of sustenance while he was at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man.” The king invites Barzillai to go with him to Jerusalem, “and I will feed thee with me.” But Barzillai feels he is too old for this, and he had not served his rejected Master for reward or acknowledgment; it was love that so liberally gave of his substance to the king in those darkest of days, and love does not give for reward. But he adds, (as I suppose we all will add in that coming day), “And why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?” And then, though he would return home himself, he offers his son Chimham to go with the king; “and do to him what shall seem good unto thee.” And the king answered, “Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good unto thee.” (2 Sam. 19).
What did David do for the son of his old friend, who had cared for him in his rejection? We do not know for sure, but could it be that he shared with him his own family estate at Bethlehem? We know our King shares His kingly Home with those who share His rejection. Anyway, we read in Jer. 41:17 of those who dwelt “in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem.” And there are those who think this should be the “inn of Chimham”, and that afterward, perhaps, it was this very inn that could find “no room” for the King of Kings, and so in its stable, at Bethlehem, great David’s greater Son came to our world, rejected, as David had been, in small measure, before Him. We cannot know for sure about this, but we do know that David did not forget the one who had shared his rejection, and in his dying charge to his son Solomon he especially commended to his care, not only Chimham, but “the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite.”
It is a blessed thing to have the privilege of sharing the rejection of Jesus and still more blessed that our children should share that rejection with us. They, and we, will share the glory in a coining day with the One we have learned to love in His rejection. There are those who say: Let the children choose for themselves. That was not the way with those noble men of old. With them, the children, of course, went with their fathers. May it be so, more and more, with your little ones.
But I cannot refrain from another little word about Chimham, even though it is not exactly in line with the subject before us. The name Chimham means “Great Desire”, “Longing”. It comes from a Hebrew root, meaning “to long for” anything; it occurs only once in the Bible, Psa. 63:2, “my flesh longeth for Thee.” Does not this name tell us of the intense desire of the inmost heart of Chimham’s noble father; as he “longed” for the blessings promised, but waited for so long, for his people Israel? Perhaps I should not say “the blessings”, but rather “the Blesser”; for it is not for “them”, but “for Thee my flesh longeth.” And so it came about that although Barzillai himself could not go to Jerusalem with David, his “Longing” did go over, and dwelt there with the king. May I quote an old poem I found recently that has strangely stirred my own heart, and I hope may carry a message of hope for you also:
“Chimham Shall Go Over”
The King hath passed the river
Jerusalem is free;
This wilderness is weary,
This flesh is slavery:
Awhile He dwelt among us,
With whom it was not so:
Henceforth our King and Savior
No more in flesh we know.
He entered Jordan asking
For us with Him to be;
The glory He is bearing
He prayed that we might see;
“Father I will” (we listened,
I thought I heard my name)
“That they whom Thou has given Me
Be with Me where I am.”
Man may not gaze on glory,
As once he looked on grace;
Not on the Lord rejoicing,
As on the Man’s marred face;
A little while in Gilead
Our dwelling-place must be,
But our “Longing” shall go over,
And dwell, O Lord, with Thee.
I dwelt by Jordan longing
That I might soon depart,
And one Lord’s Day a vision
Entranced my longing heart.
I saw upon Mount Zion,
Around the Royal Lamb,
Twelve times twelve thousand virgins
From men redeemed they came.
One voice of many waters
Went up from all that throng,
The voice of harpers harping,
One thunder-voice of song,
Before the throne and elders
And living creatures near;
None not redeemed could learn it,
None not redeemed could bear.
And every mouth was guileless,
Each garment undefiled;
God on each brow had written
The Name that seals His child,
And, while I looked, my Savior
Smiled on me graciously;
“Come over, I will feed thee
In Jerusalem with Me.”
The vision faded from me;
I woke to earth again;
Before me rolled the Jordan
Behind me stretched the plain,
But still there dwelt upon me
My Savior’s look and smile;
And words were whispering in mine ears,
His Words, “A little while.”
A little while— by Jordan
My sojourning must be;
But my longing hath gone over,
And I long to dwell with Thee.
“A little while” —how long have I to live,
That I should go to be a king with Thee?
Labor and sorrow all that flesh can give,
And fourscore years the bound of life for me!
Can I discern betwixt the good and ill?
Sad empty godhead man had thought to win!
And shall Thy treasured goodness flow, to fill
A soul in rags, a vessel meet for sin?
Can Thy servant taste
The fruit of life whereon Thy conquerors feed?
Shall lips unclean the hidden manna waste,
The living waters where the Lamb doth lead?
Can I hear the voice
Of those who sing “Salvation” all the day,
Whose eyes behold the King, whose hearts rejoice
With joy untold, that no man takes away?
No— not yet —not there,
To be a burden to my Lord the King.
No— let this earthly house dissolve to share
Their life, whom God with Thee again shall bring.
A little way will I Thy servant go,
A little way o’er Jordan with my Lord.
And why, —’twill take eternity to know —
Why should He recompense me such reward?
The heavy spirit and the failing flesh
With thee awhile shall yet be crucified,
Whose eye was never dim, Whose nature’s force
Did not abate, till He o’ercame, that died?
So would I, Lord, in Jordan
Be first baptized with Thee;
Yet take my longing over
To Jerusalem the free.
And if some time the spirit
But dimly burn within,
And the weak flesh be weaker
With wound or sore of sin;
I’ll think on Him Who conquered
And kept the crown for me;
And my longing shall go over
And wear it now with Thee.
When heavy for a season,
With temptings manifold,
When faith mistrusts Thy goodness,
When love is waxing cold;
I’ll long to know the surety
Of that I do not see;
And my longing shall go over
And know it now with Thee.
When bread of tears is given,
Or plenteous tears to drink,
I’ll long for hidden manna,
Of Christ my life I’ll think,
Whose streams make glad the city
Where weeping shall not be;
And my longing shall go over
To Paradise with Thee.
If for a time I suffer,
Pierced with the thorns that grow,
Lest we forget the wilderness
And all our nature’s woe;
Yet from that voice of harpers
Sorrow and sighing flee;
And my longing shall go over,
And hear them sing to Thee.
In Gilead and by Jordan
My tent while must be,
Hard by the “Hill” whose “witness”,
Is “Jesus died for me”;
Hard by the brink of Jordan,
Whose ever-deepening tide
Still, as my feet it cleanseth
Is whispering, “Jesus died”
And o’er the flood I’ll look, and long
For Jerusalem the free;
While the spirit in the failing flesh
Is going heavily;
And my sign the dimly burning flax
The bruise reed shall be:
But my longing only shall not fail;
I’ll always long for Thee.
And some day, while I’m longing,
I think my Lord will come!
And in the twinkling of an eye
I shall be free, at home;
And my soul, that thirsteth after God,
Shall be athirst no more;
And my hunger shall be satisfied,
And all my longings o’er.
(C. H. Waller, 1865)
I had stopped here in the story of Barzillai, even though my notebook referred me to three verses in Ezra 2:61-63. But I could not bear to see the noble name of Barzillai tarnished with any mark of failure, and so I decided to disregard my note. But the Spirit of God is too faithful an Historian to cover up every failure, though many a one He does cover, and for the rest He seems to delight to hide these failures away where few will find them. So, now with my book finished, I cannot send it to you, with that note in my old notebook, still not crossed off, and much against my will, we must look together at the cause of the blot on that fair name Barzillai.
The matter did not even come to light for nearly five hundred years, not until after the return from Captivity in Babylon. Then the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai.... sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.
And what was the cause of this shame and degradation? Why could these persons not trace their genealogy? Long years before, one of their forefathers married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite. No doubt it was considered a very good match for the young priest, and doubtless it brought with it wealth, riches and honor; for we have seen that Barzillai was a very great man, a very noble character (his very name meant “Iron of the Lord” to indicate he was “most firm and true”), and he was so immensely wealthy, that as we have seen, he could from his own private means take care of the king during his rejection.
It was no light thing to become the son-in-law of such a man; and the young priest, contrary to God’s order, gave up his own name and took the name of his wife: and so in Ezra he stands with the name “Barzillai”. But his own priestly name is lost; lost it would appear in the desire for worldly advancement, riches, wealth and honor. Doubtless he gained all these; and he probably thought the price he paid was very small; but how little did he think that his act, some five hundred years later would cost his children their blessed, privileged place of priests! But we cannot obtain advancement in the things of the world without loss in the things of Heaven. And in the end we will find that Heaven’s riches and honor are more enduring than those of earth, no matter how tempting the offer may be now. (See Ezra 2:61).
It is not for us to say who was to blame, but it is a sad, sad thing to see the name of Barzillai the Gileadite linked up in the Book of Ezra, with this story of sorrow and shame.
I need not point out the lessons for us; they are too plain to require comment; but I may point to the end of the passage as a blessed message of hope. For us a priest has stood up with Urim and Thummim, and He knows the heart: He knows if the genealogy is really true, if there has been the new birth, even though years of contact with the world, may have hidden it to the eyes of others.


We really should have looked at King Saul before, as well as his son Jonathan, but we will look a little at them now, in connection with Mephibosheth.
The family of King Saul is so sad that I would fain pass it by. Saul seems to have been a man without faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. This is not the place to trace the sad history of this unhappy man who had such a bright beginning, and such a tragic end.
We know little of Saul’s family, except his son Jonathan, and Michal his daughter, who married David. Jonathan was killed with his father and two brothers, Abinadab and Melchishua, at the battle of Mount Gilboa. Ishbosheth, another son, took his father’s throne, and reigned for perhaps seven years: years of constant war with David, the king of God’s choice. At the end of that time two of his servants murdered him on his own bed. David calls him a “righteous man”. Two other sons of Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth, were hanged before the Lord for their father’s wickedness in breaking faith with the Gibeonites. When David went into rejection, Michal became the wife of Adriel the Meholathite. She had five sons by this marriage, all of whom were hanged with their uncles just mentioned. Michal herself was later restored to David, but because she despised her husband at the time the ark was brought to Jerusalem “therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.” (2 Sam. 6:23). It would be difficult to find a more terrible end of a whole family, and I doubt not their father was responsible. He began by rejecting the word of the Lord, and the Lord rejected him. (1 Sam. 15:26). What an unspeakably solemn lesson for every parent. The Word of the Lord claims authority over us, and we cannot reject it with impunity. He turned, in jealousy, against David the man of God’s choice, and hated him with a mad hatred. The night before his death, he owns: “God is departed from me,” and so he turns for help to a witch, to the Devil himself.

Jonathan and Mephibosheth

The story of Saul’s family leaves us sick at heart: and yet there was one bright, bright ray of the grace of God even there. Jonathan, meaning “The Lord gave,” Saul’s son, is one of the most lovely characters in all the Bible. His love for David is still a household word. After David had killed Goliath, “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.... And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” (1 Sam. 18:1, 4). And that loving heart was always true to his friend. In the face of his father’s bitter hatred, Jonathan was always faithful to him. Read that touching parting between these two, as David had to fly for his life: “They kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed forever.’” I know that as David turned his face towards shame and rejection, “Jonathan went into the city.” How much happier would he have been sharing David’s rejection! His heart was with David, however and he visits him in the wood, “and strengthened his hand in God.” (1 Sam. 23:16). But the same sad words follow: “David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.” They remind us of our Lord and Master: “Every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.” (John 7:53; 8:1). Was it the attraction of his own house? or was it loyalty to his father? Why, oh, why did Jonathan not wholeheartedly share the rejection of the one he truly loved, and whom he owned as rightful king? I know not the motives: I only know he did not share the rejection. I think, I hope, it was not that his love failed. Peter once forsook his Lord, and I think it was not because his love failed. I, too, can recall times when I have not been willing to share my Lord’s rejection. I can remember times when I have not confessed Him before men. On more than one occasion I have had to sob out Peter’s words: “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee!” even though the appearances were all the other way. On that dark night of Peter’s denial, there was not one who was willing to share his Master’s rejection, but “all forsook Him and fled”. When His servant Paul stood before Nero, he walked the same path as his Master, and must write: “No man stood with me, but all forsook me.” And today our Master is just as truly rejected as He was in those days of old. Think not, Beloved, it is a light thing to follow the “forgotten and rejected Jesus.” It is not; and few there are today who are in any position to blame Jonathan too hardly without condemning themselves.
It is a sad story. Instead of being “next unto” the king, (as I doubt not he would have been, had he shared his rejection), Jonathan, one of the loveliest characters, and one of the bravest soldiers, dies on mount Gilboa; and his little son Mephibosheth is lame for life from a fall while his nurse was trying to save him. He is brought up in Lodebar, “No Pasture”, as far from the king as ever he can get: in the rejection his noble father had foreseen when he made a covenant with David before his death.
But whose heart has not thrilled at Mephibosheth! David shows him “the kindness of God”, “for Jonathan thy father’s sake”, and brings that poor, lame, hopeless orphan to eat at his own table as one of the king’s sons, while his grandfather’s servant Ziba with his fifteen sons and twenty servants, tilled his land: for the king gave him as his inheritance, “all that pertained to Saul and to all his house.”
We may not stop to trace this beautiful story, much as I would love to: but we must look at the meeting between David and Mephibosheth, as the King returned from his exile: “Wherefore wentest not thou with me, Mephibosheth?” asks the king. For it was true, Mephibosheth had not gone out from Jerusalem with the King. His wicked servant Ziba had lied about him, and poisoned the King’s mind towards him: while Mephibosheth was at home mourning, too lame to walk, and his servant had not brought the ass he had ordered to be saddled for him. All that time he “had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace.” I used often to be puzzled at the King’s unjust reply, “Thou and Ziba divide the land,” when Mephibosheth told the King he was loyal as ever. But now I know just that answer was needed to make the true, loyal and undivided devotion of Mephibosheth’s heart shine with the brightness it deserved, as he says: “Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house.” Houses and lands were nothing to Mephibosheth when he had the king he loved.
There are few sadder stories in the Bible than these two we have been pondering, but perhaps on the one hand, in none does the grace of God, “the kindness of God”, shine more brightly; and on the other rarely do we meet with loving loyalty like that which filled the heart of Mephibosheth. Lord, give us hearts like his!
And Mephibosheth had learned the true Source from whence all his blessings came, for he “had a young son, whose name was Micha”; and the meaning of Micha is: “Who is like unto the Lord?” A most lovely climax to a most lovely story!

Benaiah the Son of Jehoiada

I can hardly pass over Benaiah. From the time I was a child and my Mother used to tell us these stories I have always loved Benaiah. He was one of David’s mighty men. What boy, and, indeed, what girl, has not reveled in the deeds of those “mighty men”?
“Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lion like men of Moab; also he went down and slew a lion in a pit on a snowy day. And he slew an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits high; and in the Egyptian’s hand was a spear like a weaver’s beam; and he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and slew him with his own spear.” (1 Chron. 11:22) (Do the lion like men of Moab tell us of the flesh? The lion in the pit, the devil; the Egyptian, the world?)
Jehoiada, Benaiah’s father, was leader of the Aaronites (1 Chron. 12:27). The family came from Kabzeel, as we saw above, which was one of the uttermost cities of the tribe of the children of Judah toward the coast of Edom southward. (Josh. 15:21). In 1 Chron. 27:5 he is spoken of as “a chief priest”. Through all the strife, and jealousy that accompanied Solomon’s accession to the throne, when even Joab turned aside after Adonijah, Benaiah was always true and loyal.
But in our meditations, it is as a parent we wish to think of Benaiah. We hear very little of him in that capacity; but in 1 Chron. 27:5-6 we read in connection with David’s officials: “The third captain of the host for the third month was Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, a chief priest; and in his course were twenty and four thousand. This is that Benaiah, who was might among the thirty, and above the thirty; and in his course was Ammizabad his son.”
What a comfort to a father’s heart to have a son on whom, in his increasing years, he may lean. What understanding, what confidence, what communion, those two must have had. It reminds us of Timothy, who as a son with a father labored with Paul in the Gospel. For one who has tasted it, there can be nothing much sweeter. May God help you, and give you the wisdom needed when the children are small, to so make them your companions, that when they shall be older, you and they will naturally labor together. You know, as well as I, how your father failed in this very matter: may it not be so with you.

Abner's Son

You know the story of “Abner, the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle.” (1 Sam. 14:50). You remember he was captain of Saul’s host (2 Sam. 2:8) and fought for Saul’s family for some years after David was crowned king. David seems always to have honored and admired Abner, and when at last he came to make peace, David received him and made him a feast. Joab was jealous of Abner and at that time murdered him in cold blood. It was for this deed, in part, that Joab was later put to death. David tells us what he thought of Abner, when he said: “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel.”
It is very refreshing, in view of this sad murder, to find that David made Jaasiel, Abner’s son, ruler of the tribe of Benjamin. (1 Chron. 27:21).


We have already dwelt at some length on the sad failure of David that resulted in Bathsheba becoming his wife. We saw that the eldest child of Bathsheba died as an infant. Solomon was this babe’s younger brother. His name means “Peaceable”, “and the Lord loved him”. (2 Sam. 12:24, 25). And because the Lord loved him, he had a second name. Jedidiah, meaning “Beloved of the Lord.”
You know the story too well for me to have any need to tell you. You know how bright the prospects were in the beginning. You remember how he asked for wisdom when God gave him the amazing offer to choose what he would have. Our Lord Himself could speak of “Solomon and all his glory.” Perhaps there has never been anyone with so bright an outlook in his early years as Solomon.
And yet from the early years of his reign there was that which indicated that all was not right. It was in the very beginning of his reign that Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh King of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David. (1 Kings 3:1). Solomon had no business taking a wife from Egypt. She was almost surely an idolatress, and it was not so long before Solomon realized that this woman was not fit for “the holy hill of Zion”, and so we read: “And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her; for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come.” Solomon must have known that a woman who was not fit to dwell in the city of David, was no fit woman to be his wife. In the days of Ezra, the Jews were compelled to put away the heathen wives they had taken. We see the grace of God shown forth in this day of grace in 1 Cor. 7:14, where we find that the believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband; and the believing husband sanctifies the unbelieving wife. And so our children are holy, even though only one parent be a believer. But we need to remember that this gives us no warrant for marrying an unbeliever. “Only in the Lord” is the clear word of God. (1 Cor. 7:39).
As we are speaking of marriage, may I draw your attention to a matter that we passed over in the early pages of these meditations. I have been struck lately with the earnest care that Abraham gave to his son’s marriage. How determined he was that Isaac should not marry any woman from the nations around! Nor was Isaac to turn back to those lands from whence his father had come. How lightly Isaac’s sons forgot their grandfather’s earnestness in these matters, and it was apparently no concern to Isaac that Esau took wives from the nations about, and that Jacob should return to the land which his father had forbidden him. This was perhaps a growth in liberty, but not a growth in grace or holiness.
Your little ones may be too young at present for you to be thinking of marriage, but you will be amazed how quickly the years fly by, those precious years when you have your children with you; and before you realize it, this question, one of the most important of their lives, will be upon you. May God help you, and give you wisdom and faithfulness to Him in this most difficult matter.
But we must return to Solomon. It would seem that he did not apply the wisdom that God had given him, to his own walk. And how often are we better able to tell someone else how to walk aright, than to follow the right path for ourselves. Solomon could write: “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman; that they may keep thee from the strange woman.” (Prov. 7:4, 5). “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods; Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father, then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.” (1 Kings 11:1-8).
The brightness of the early prospect only makes the tragedy of the awful fall seem darker. We noticed, when considering David’s history that God had specially commanded the king whom He should choose, not to multiply wives. (Deut. 17:15, 17). We saw that the terrible trials and anguish through which David walked, was caused by failing to obey this clear command. Solomon had this most solemn lesson before him, as well as this same command of God, but he deliberately defied God’s command, and walked in open disobedience.
This disobedience cost his son Rehoboam ten, out of the twelve, tribes of Israel. And from that day to this, the bitter fruits of Solomon’s disobedience are still in evidence, as we hear men guess as to where those ten tribes are at the present day. None but God Himself can answer this question, but in spite of Solomon’s sin, and all man’s failure, we know the day is coming when God Himself will find those ten tribes, and bring them back once more to the land they have so long lost. See, for example, Ezek. 37:15-28 and Jer. 16:16. And so, even amidst the sorrows of Solomon’s failure, we find the grace of God overleaping the sin of man, and bringing in restoration at last. But what a long night of darkness have those ten tribes experienced; and we may do well to remember that it was all brought about through the disobedience of the wisest of men, a man who had, perhaps, the highest hopes of any man who ever lived, as regards the things of this earth.


We leave Solomon sick at heart, but when we find that his son Rehoboam had for mother “Naamah an Ammonitess” (2 Chron. 12:13) we are not surprised that he did not turn out a better man. Like his father and grandfather, he multiplied wives, eighteen wives and sixty concubines. “He desired many wives” is the Divine comment on this man. His favorite wife was Maachah, the daughter of Absalom; but from Chapter 13, verse 2, we gather this was not Absalom the son of David. He appointed Abijah, the son of this woman Maachah, to be king in his stead. From 1 Kings 15:13, we learn that she was an idolatress, and “made an idol in a grove.” What a woman to choose for the mother of the future sovereign of God’s people.


Although Abijah had a woman of Israel for his mother instead of an Ammonitess, (like his father Rehoboam), yet this woman was, as we have just seen, one who worshipped idols. We need not, then, be surprised to read of him: “He walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David’s sake did the Lord his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem.”
We see from this record that it was his father’s evil example that led this king astray. What a voice to those of us who are fathers! May the Lord keep us from leaving behind a trail of sin for our sons to follow! For this was just what Rehoboam did for Abijah.
But it was not the father alone who turned this son into paths of sin: the very fact that the Spirit of God records with such care the name and character of his mother, tells us that she too had part in forming his character. And as we read the stories of these kings of old, we cannot but be struck with the fact that in most instances the name of the mother is given to us, intimating that the responsibility for the child’s character rested in a large measure with the mother. During those childhood days, when lifelong impressions are being imprinted on the child’s character, it is the mother, much more than the father, or any other person, who generally has to do with the little one. This does not lessen the responsibility of the father, but it does increase the responsibility of the mother.
But even in this evil king, God’s mercy and grace shines brightly, and under his hand there came a measure of deliverance to Judah, “because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.” (2 Chron. 13:18).
One of the remarkable things about this man was that although “he walked in all the sins of his father”, yet he had a good son, Asa. This is often a puzzle to many, but do we not find the solution in the Scripture quoted: “Nevertheless for David’s sake did the Lord his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem.” That good son Asa, was given for David’s sake. And David was Asa’s great-great-grandfather! To the fourth generation David’s ways brought down blessing on his descendants. And we know also that God visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation. (Ex. 20:5). What an exceedingly solemn consideration for us each one is this, to remember that our walk, day by day, may effect for blessing, or otherwise, our children, for as much as three, or even four generations, or for a very much longer time.


It is remarkable, as far as I am aware, no mention of Asa’s mother is given, but instead his grandmother is spoken about. True she is referred to as “mother” (1 Kings 15:10), but the margin points out that actually she was the grandmother. And this is a little word of warning, and encouragement, to the grandmothers. They also have an influence: an influence for good or for evil, on the young lives with which they are brought in contact. May God help us, who have reached this period of our lives when we are grandparents, to show the very best example to those dear little ones, for whose sake these pages have been prepared.
But it is sad to relate that Asa’s grandmother did not set him a good example. Instead we find her making an idol in a grove. Her brave young grandson removed her, for this sin, from being queen, and destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron (1 Kings 15:13). What a joy to God’s heart must this act have been, and we read the Divine comment on this king, “Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.” (1 Kings 15:14). How one envies such a record; what a contrast to that of his father in verse 3, “his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God.”
And yet, in his old age, even Asa “was diseased in his feet.” I suppose the lesson here is for us who are getting old. With diseased feet, one cannot walk right. “He will keep the feet of His saints”. (1 Sam. 2:9). May He keep our feet healthy and clean even to old age.


Asa’s son was Jehoshaphat, one of the best of Judah’s kings. “His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:42). “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in His commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.” (2 Chron. 17:3-6). Again: “thou hast prepared thine heart to seek God;” (2 Chron. 19:3), although, “as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.” (2 Chron. 20:33). The Lord seems to delight to heap His praises on this good king. Read the story of King Jehoshaphat for yourselves in 2 Chronicles from the beginning of Chapter 17 to the first verse of Chapter 21, and drink in the pure joy and gladness of the mighty, victory over the children of Moab, and the children Of Ammon, and the others who came against Jehoshaphat, as recorded in the Twentieth Chapter. Hear the noble words of strong faith: “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” And that faith bursts forth (as indeed it so often does with us ourselves on lesser occasions) in songs of praise: “And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for His mercy endureth forever.” And all this was before God wrought for them, in overthrowing their enemies. Do you think God could let them be defeated with that song of praise, raised by faith, coming up before Him? Impossible! “And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.” And so there was a mighty victory, and it took three days to carry off the spoil, and on the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Blessing; for there they blessed the Lord.
Blessed path of faith and song, that ever leads to victory; (for, The joy of the Lord is your strength); and then to the Valley of Blessing. May we each one know more and more of that blessed path. Long ago, before any of you were born our house was filled with song. A dear friend had given us a beautiful canary in a brass cage for a wedding present, and it set us a good example, which your Mother loved to follow. But somehow or other the singing grew less, and then it ceased; though we did not notice it, until our canary followed our example, and gave up its song. And then we realized that something was wrong and through God’s mercy the songs came back to our house once more. May you dear ones never lose the songs from your hearts and homes!
I wish we could end the story of Jehoshaphat here, but sad to say, we cannot, for the record reads: “And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly.” (2 Chron. 20:35). They made ships together to go to Tarshish, but the Lord broke them, “that they were not able to go to Tarshish.” In 1 Kings 22:49, it would seem that Jehoshaphat had learned the sad lesson that we cannot be joined with the ungodly, and we find that on this occasion he refused to join with Ahaziah.
But the Holy Spirit seems to cover some of the failure of Jehoshaphat, for love covers a multitude of sins, and it is not until we get to 2 Chron. 21:6 that we find that Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, had for wife the daughter of Ahab. And this daughter of Ahab made the son of this good king Jehoshaphat go far astray. “He wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord.” How could it be otherwise? He reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Sad record of a wicked king: son of one of the best of all the kings of Judah: and all because of his wife. And that wife came through his father’s unholy alliance, perhaps only for a short time, with an evil man. What a solemn lesson for us. He lost his son through that alliance with Ahaziah.
But that is not the end of the tragic story. Jehoram’s son was Ahaziah, (perhaps named after his uncle, the wicked king of Israel, his mother was Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, one of the most wicked women that ever lived. Jehoram’s grandson was Joash, the baby king saved by his aunt Jehoshabeath,(what a word of encouragement for the aunts!) and his great-grandson was Amaziah. If we turn to the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we will find that these three kings Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, are blotted out of “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” They are not reckoned at all in our Savior’s genealogy. But there we read “Joram (or, Jehoram) begat Ozias (or, Uzziah),” (Matt. 1:8). The shame of it, the tragedy, the eternal loss, to this great and good man; and all for the sake of being friends with the world; and perhaps for the sake of getting a little of the gold of Tarshish. The price he had to pay was far, far too high for the gain he hoped to get. And so will you dear ones find, if you, like Jehoshaphat, venture on the friendship of the world. David brought blessings on his family for four generations: Jehoshaphat brought a curse. May God keep us, for we cannot keep ourselves.
I will not stop to speak of the base ingratitude of Joash, or the divided heart of Amaziah his son. (2 Chron. 25:2). May God Himself guard us from these evils to which we also are equally prone. You will note that Joash was slain by his own servants, and one of these was the son of an Ammonitess, and the other the son of a Moabitess, solemn, silent comment of the Scripture on the disobedience which could not only permit such marriages(strictly forbidden in the Scriptures), but could even bring their offspring to serve at court.
You will notice through these chapters how often the name of the mother is recorded: as in 25:1; 26:3; 27:1. You dear mothers: what a weight of responsibility rests on your shoulders; and you may not hand it over to another, no, not even were you a queen; it is still your own special responsibility to train those precious darlings, while their hearts are still young and tender, in the way the Lord would have them go. The years will pass all too quickly; and before you are aware, you will find it is too late, if you do not seize the opportunity the Lord gives to you while the children are little. All the gold of Tarshish cannot make up for the loss, if their names are blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life, because you were too busy here and there to train them for your Lord.


Hezekiah was another of Judah’s good kings. “And his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah.” (2 Chron. 29:1). To all eternity that record will stand, telling us of years of patient, quiet, hidden training and influence, from the nursery to the throne. And as we read of all the good that Hezekiah did to his country and his people, we know that in God’s sight, much of it was due to Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. What an encouragement to you, Mothers! His father was a wicked man.
Here is another story you should read for yourselves, and drink in the comfort with which it is filled. Hezekiah was a true father to his people. How sweet it is to hear that “he spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the Lord.” And again, when faced with an overwhelming foe, we hear him say to his people, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him; for there be more with us than with him; with him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” (2 Chron. 32:7-8).
Once again we could wish that our story might end here, but again there is more to tell. God, for some good and wise purpose, sent word to Hezekiah, while still a young man, probably only 39 or 40, that the time had come for him to die. God’s ways are best; even in such a matter as this: but Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord.... and Hezekiah wept sore. It was a desperately earnest prayer; but I greatly fear there was no thought in it of “Thy will be done.” And God gave him what he asked, as God does at times to us, when we are determined to have it, and He added to his life fifteen years. Alas, those fifteen years did not shine as brightly, as the fourteen years that had just passed. First of all pride came in. (2 Chron. 32:25-26). And after three years a little son came on the scene, and he called his name Manasseh —‘Forgetting’. One would almost think from 2 Chron. 32:25, that Hezekiah had forgotten “the benefit done unto him.” And this little son, when the fifteen years added to his father’s life were ended, was still only twelve years old, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem; but did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. Also he built altars in the house of the Lord, whereof the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem shall My Name be forever. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord....” And so the record continues, verse after verse of the terrible sins of this wicked king, son of one of the best kings of Judah, but, alas, a son born from self-will and pride. The record in Kings is almost more terrible; “He filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.” (2 Kings 24:4). “Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the Lord spake to Manasseh and to his people: but they would not hearken. Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto Him: and he was entreated of him....” (2 Chron. 33:9-13). It was “then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.”
And though his sin could not be pardoned in one sense, and for his sin Jerusalem was destroyed (Jer. 15:4), yet personally, even such a sinner as Manasseh may receive a free and full pardon from the God of Israel. And that prayer for pardon, in the prison in Babylon, God valued so highly, that He caused it to be recorded, for the encouragement of other penitent sinners who would come back again, to the same God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. (Joel 2:13). And, my dear, dear ones: should it be that one of you should ever wander from the narrow path: remember, the way back is wide, wide open; with the Father’s kiss of pardon waiting for you; and not one single word of reproach we know well what we deserve, and we cannot understand why we do not get it; indeed it is hard to believe that God is such a GOD, and yet it is true. Manasseh found him true to His word: aye, he found Him more than that, as we always find; and God gave to that wicked king who humbled himself, a little grandson Josiah, who proved to be one of the very best of Judah’s long line of kings. Such is the grace of God.
That little grandson of Manasseh was only six years old when his grandfather died: but we may well believe that the old king’s deep humiliation and repentance, coupled with his energy in removing the idols he had made, and in repairing the altar of the Lord (2 Chron. 33:12-16) made such a deep impression on the little child, that under God’s good hand, they may have been the means to turn his face so boldly in the same direction. Sad, indeed, is it, to see that Manasseh’s own son Amon, though only twenty-two at his father’s death, was not at all influenced by his repentance, but only followed the sins of his earlier years: he “humbled not himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.” (2 Chron. 33:23). What a solemn and urgent message this is to our hearts, to make sure that we lead our children in the right way, even from their infancy. And let us remember, they follow where we lead.


Josiah was only eight when he began to reign, but when he was still only a boy of fifteen or sixteen, he “began to seek after the God of David his father.” Here is another story the Holy Spirit delights to dwell upon. Notice how much space in the Bible is given to Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah; and we will understand the delight of God’s heart in finding a man who would truly seek Him. It is a joy to the heart to see the young king, when Hilkiah the priest finds the Bible that had been lost and forgotten for so many years, finds it when they were cleaning up the House of the Lord, and repairing it. Josiah had never seen or heard of it before. Such was the condition that Judah had come to; and what a lesson to us. The Lord had said long before: “Ye shall 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, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the 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.” (Deut. 11:18-21). But in the days of Josiah, and in the days of his father, that blessed Book was so neglected that neither king nor priest even knew of its existence. Little wonder the nation went astray. A nation without the Bible can do nothing else, and a family without the Bible will do likewise. My children, this is an urgent message to you. It is one that greatly condemns me; but you, you dear ones, you still have the opportunity. May the Lord help you to make your children more familiar with their Bible than ever I have done with you. Yes, may they learn to love that dear Book, and may they hide it, —not in the dust and the ruins, as the people of Jerusalem did, but in their own hearts. But it is you, the parents, who must lead them (not drive them), to know, love and honor this blessed Book.
Hilkiah the priest gave the Book to Shaphan the scribe, and he took it to the king, and read it aloud to him; (just as my parents used to do to us, until they made the stories live before our eyes); the king had, of course, never heard anything like this in his life, for he had never seen a Bible before. What was the result? He rent his clothes, and he wept before the Lord. (2 Chron. 34:27). But he did more, he sent Hilkiah and Shaphan and some others to Huldah the prophetess. Perhaps Huldah had a Bible, I do not know, but she had a sad and solemn message for the good young king: “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to Me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah; because they have forsaken Me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched. And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel concerning the words which thou Nast heard; because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest His words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humblest thyself before Me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before Me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same.” (2 Chron. 34:23-28).
Such was the sad, sad message. Even such a king as Josiah, though he could defer the terrible punishment, could not avert it. The repentance of the king and people of Nineveh deferred the judgment of that city for many years; but the judgment finally fell. And Josiah was taken away from the judgment to come, while he was still a young man, only 39; just the age that God had told Hezekiah that he must die. How much better had it been for Israel if Hezekiah could have trusted his God; then Manasseh would never have been born. For Manasseh was in reality the cause of Israel’s final downfall. It was self-will that was the cause of Josiah’s death. He was determined to fight with Necho king of Egypt. God warned him not to do so, but he would have his own way, like Hezekiah before him, and he “hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo. And the archers shot at King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.” (2 Chron. 35:22, 23). He died and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah.
Well they might mourn and lament, for with the death of Josiah the sands of Judah’s history were almost run out. We have only left the sad, sad record of his sons and grandsons. And the old question will come back, Why should such a good king have such bad sons? I suppose the first answer is the self-will that must have often acted before, or it would hardly have suddenly been so strong as to cause the king’s death. And self-will is a very subtle thing: many and many a saint of God who prides himself on his holiness, is in reality walking in self-will. It is liking my own way: and which of us can plead “Not Guilty” to such a charge? This humbles us all, and we have to own that it is the cause of many of our falls. It is not an easy lesson to truthfully say: “Not my will, but Thine be done!”
But there is, perhaps, another reason given us in the Scripture, hidden away, as so often is the case with the sins of the saints, that one is almost ashamed to expose it. The prophet Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah: and he had something special to say about the young princes, and also the king’s children, (about those very young men, who in a short time would become kings, and about their sisters also). “I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.” (Zeph. 1:8). These are days in which our young people are greatly tempted to clothe themselves with strange apparel. But they will do well, and their parents will do well, to remember that it was this strange apparel that in part was the cause for the awful downfall of the Kingdom of Judah. The New Translation renders it: “foreign apparel”, and we see that, perhaps 150 years before, Isaiah had solemnly warned Israel of judgment to come because “they are filled with what comes from the east.” (Isa. 2:6 New Translation). We understand these references a little better if we turn to Ezek. 23:14-15; where we find that Judah was enthralled with the pictures of the men of Assyria “portrayed with vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity; and as soon as she saw them with her eyes she doted upon them, and sent messengers into Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her....”
We saw that the beginning of the history of Israel in their own land, was marred by a Babylonian garment (Josh. 7:21); how passing strange that again it is a Babylonian garment that brings that history to a close. Babylon speaks to us of the world. It is the same place as Babel, meaning Confusion. And if we bring the things of this world into the things of God, there can be nothing but confusion. In the early days of Israel’s history, there was spiritual energy to put the evil away; but, alas, alas, even in the days of Josiah, even in his own family, there was no such energy; and the king’s children wore openly that strange, that foreign apparel, (hidden in the tent in the early days of Israel’s history), but now boldly, openly worn, the badge and mark and proof where their hearts belonged. And the clothes our children wear are the badge and mark and proof of where the hearts belong, whether to what should be their native air of Heaven or the world and its fashions and ways. Alas, the world has found a welcome, and ready home, in the palace of the good king of Judah, and judgment must fall. The friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4). God calls such “adulterers and adulteresses”. Could language be more solemn? Oh, my children, as you love your little ones, let these weighty truths sink down deep into your hearts.
I shall not try and trace the wreck of Josiah’s house. It is too sad, and you know it as well as I; or you may read it for yourselves. It almost closes the history of Israel and Judah. But we have still two or three more stories we may look at, before we close these meditations on the Old Testament.


Properly speaking, Daniel is not one of those we should consider, for we know nothing of his parents: but he lived at about the same time as the young princes we have just been considering and he was a young man, when they were young: he was exposed to the same temptations before which they fell, both in his native land of Judah, and afterward in the land of Babylonia; for Daniel himself was probably one of those young princes to whom the Prophet Zephaniah had spoken in such solemn tones. You remember how Daniel and his friends refused even the food of Babylon, and lived instead on pulse to eat, and water to drink. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. (Dan. 1:8). It is that “purpose of heart” that Daniel had, and that was found in the early church (Acts 11:23) that you and I need today. May our children see in us that we are absolutely and altogether out and out for Christ, and that there is an absolutely clean cut with the world and its fashions and ways, no matter whether clothes or meat or drink or any other thing. Like Paul of old may we each one be able to say:
“God forbid that I should glory,
save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me,
and I unto the world.”
(Gal. 6:14).
Paul and the world were deadly enemies, they had nothing whatever to say to each other. Ponder, my children, these princes of Judah, and may God give you grace to bring each of your little ones to follow Daniel, and not the sons of Josiah.


One little word about Mordecai to cheer the hearts of the Uncles. We have seen the comfort that Othniel was to his Uncle Caleb, and there are others we might have looked at. What a joy young Jonathan must have been to his Uncle David in 2 Sam. 21:21, when he slew the giant with six fingers and six toes on each hand and foot; but very likely it was his Uncle David’s example that had given him courage to do it. And you dear ones are uncles and aunts, as well as fathers and mothers.
But what a joy Esther must have been to her uncle through those dark days of life at Shushan the palace, where their lot was cast. And Mordecai brought the young orphan niece up to fear the God of Israel, and as she grew older, even in the king’s court, she did not depart from that early training. I shall not stop to tell the story, for you all know it: but I would remind you of this bright example of that verse (Prov. 22:6): “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
It would appear that Esther and Mordecai lived after the temple at Jerusalem had been rebuilt; and it seems strange that such persons as these two, had not returned to the Land of their Fathers. It may be that it is one of those things that God allows, perhaps our own lack of faith, or devotedness, that hinders us choosing the best path, but God accepts what we have, and uses us in the place we have chosen ourselves, even if it is not the place of His choice. It is very comforting and encouraging to our failing hearts— the more so, as we find out how much we fail— that we do know that God does make all things work together for good to them that love God. What a bright example the Book of Esther is to this blessed truth, even though neither the Name of God, nor the word “God”, once appears in it.

Shallum and His Daughters

I cannot close these meditations on Old Testament parents and their children, without a glance at Shallum. It was perhaps some thirty years later than Mordecai and Esther that Nehemiah, the King’s Cupbearer, went up to Jerusalem to build the wall. The temple had been completed quite a few years before, but the wall was still in utter ruins, and Nehemiah makes himself sick with sorrow of heart over the matter, so that he endangers his head to the king. But Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and God not only delivers him, but gives him his heart’s desire, that he might go to Jerusalem to build the wall. I will not stop to tell the story, which I am sure you all know, and I hope love. The noble spirit of Nehemiah stirred the hearts of the people, and they came together to the work. The minute details that the Holy Spirit records, of some who built two pieces, some who “did not put their necks to the work of their Lord” (Neh. 3:5), all are of the keenest interest. But it is of Shallum, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, and of his daughters, that I want to think for a moment. Probably he was a wealthy man, being ruler of half of Jerusalem. These girls were probably brought up in a nice home, with servants to do the work. It is very possible that their hands were white and soft, and quite unused to hard labor; but at the call to build the wall of Jerusalem, Shallum goes forth himself, not with his servants, not with experienced hired masons, but with his own daughters (perhaps he had no sons), and these girls, I doubt not, willingly put on their old clothes, and carried away the rubbish, and gathered the stones, and brought the mortar; and the Lord looked on, and recorded it to the eternal ages that the daughters of Shallum were ready to help their father in work that men should have been doing. Brave, good girls! May your daughters be just such as they! And I have no doubt at all that their hands got sore and blistered and cut and bruised, and they just kept right on building the wall. Brave, good girls! I love the daughters of Shallum. I knew a young man who had a number of excellent recommendations, but the one of which he was most proud, was very short: “He is not afraid of getting his hands dirty.” Shallum’s daughters could have had the same recommendation.
As far as I know these girls are the last children with their parents, that we see in the history of the Old Testament, unless we think of the children whose mothers were heathen, and who could not speak the language of Canaan properly; and I have no heart to speak of them; and it seems to me that the picture of these girls, laboring with their father in work for the Lord, is about the most beautiful and most suitable picture we could possibly have for a close to our meditations. It is what I have coveted, not for my daughters only, but also for my sons, that together, with one spirit and one mind we may strive together for the faith of the Gospel. (Phil. 1:27). May God grant it to me; and may He grant it to you!
“Ye know the proof of him,
he hath served with me
in the Gospel.”
Phil. 2:22

Zacharias and Elisabeth

The first parents to consider in the New Testament are Zacharias and Elisabeth. The Divine record of them runs thus: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.” (Luke 1:5-7).
Zacharias and Elisabeth lived in the hill country of Juda; but the lot came for Zacharias to burn incense in the temple at Jerusalem, while all the people waited outside. While burning the incense, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, saying: “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias.... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17).
Zacharias had evidently recognized it was an angel that spoke to him, for he was troubled and fear fell upon him. And yet, he did not believe what the angel told him. “Whereby shall I know this?” he asked the angel. But this is the heart of man: this is the heart of even such an honored man as Zacharias, and one with such a remarkable record: “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” And yet he was not willing to take Gabriel at his word! Are we any better? Are we always ready to take One greater than Gabriel at His word? Alas, most of us must say: “O Zacharias, how shall I condemn thee? Thy condemnation, it were but mine own.” Only we are worse, because it is the word of the Lord God Himself, which we so often hesitate to take just as it stands, without a question.
And yet Zacharias did have faith. He could not have been “righteous before God” had he not had faith: for “that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, ‘The just shall live by faith.(Gal. 3:11). Also, it is evident that Zacharias had been praying, asking the Lord for a son: for the angel said: “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard.” It must have been faith that caused Zacharias to pray; and it must have been a prayer of some faith for it was heard. I think Zacharias is very much like a lot of us who are really Christians. We do have some faith; and yet, when it comes to the daily things of this life: bringing up the children, the daily cares and needs, how often we are tempted to question our Lord!
I think perhaps the great lesson for us parents in this lovely story is just this: “Have faith in God.” If it was such a grievous thing to question the word of an angel, that it left Zacharias dumb for so long, what must it be to our Lord’s loving heart, that you and I are so slow to “take Him at His word”? Even we human beings love to be trusted, and an angel expects to be trusted. Shall we, then, doubt Him who is far above angels; doubt Him, when we know it is impossible for Him to lie? But mark the grace of God. Zacharias’ unbelief costs him the use of his speech for many months: but he does not forfeit the little son for whom he had been praying, and that little son grew up to be such a man that of him his Lord (and ours) said: “Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11; Luke 7:28). And so, it seems to me, the story of John the Baptist and his parents is full of encouragement for us parents; even though it does carry with it a rebuke for most of us. May we humbly accept both, and be more ready to believe our Lord’s words: “which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
But I think there is another sweet lesson for us in this story. The 4th verse more literally reads: “He shall be to thee joy and gladness.” (See New Translation). I am sure the Lord would have each of our children to be “joy and gladness” to us. He tells us in Psa. 127, “Children are the heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” So I have not a doubt He would have each one “joy and gladness” to us. I know that very often it is not so: but is it not usually, perhaps always, we who are most to blame?

The Home at Nazareth

We can hardly help but be struck at the few families whose histories we trace in the New Testament. But the One that comes before our view now, stands alone. Never, before or since, has there been such a Child as the little One who was born in that stable in Bethlehem, because there was no room for Him in the inn.
O ever homeless Stranger,
Thus, dearest friend to me:
An outcast in the manger
That Thou might’st with us be.
How rightly rose the praises
Of heaven, that wondrous night,
When shepherds veiled their faces
In brightest angel-light:
Come now and view that manger:
The Lord of Glory see,
A houseless, homeless Stranger
In this poor world for thee.
`To God in the highest— glory—
And peace on earth,’ to find
And learn that wondrous story—
`Good pleasure in mankind.’
Bless’d Babe who lowly liest
In manger-cradle there;
Descended from the Highest,
Our sorrows all to share.
We cling to Thee in weakness,
The manger, and the cross—
We gaze upon Thy meekness
Through suffering pain and loss
There see the Godhead glory
Shine through that human veil,
And willing hear the story
Of love that’s come to heal.
My soul in secret follows
The footsteps of His love—
I trace the Man of Sorrows
His boundless grace to prove.
A child in growth and stature
Yet full of wisdom rare:
Sonship in conscious nature—
His words and ways declare.
Yet still, in meek submission,
His patient path He trod;
To wait His heav’nly mission,
Unknown to all but God.
We fain would linger in that dear home at Nazareth: but the wisdom of God has, for the most part, drawn a veil over those childhood years. We do get that lovely glimpse of Him when He was twelve years old: and we hear Him say to His mother: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). The literal meaning is, “Wist ye not that I must be in the things of My Father?” His Father’s `things’ were the very atmosphere in which He lived. Yet, see Him, the LORD of Glory, return with His parents to that humble home; and there He “was subject to them.”
In that carpenter’s home at Nazareth our Lord was `brought up’. It is almost exactly the same word which the Spirit uses of us, with our children, in Eph. 6:4 (Trepho and Ek-trepho). “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” However, of this we may speak later. But let us who are parents gaze for a moment on that ‘bringing-up.’ Never had there been such a child: never was He disobedient; never cross; never sulky; never rude; never self-willed; never untruthful. How very different to us, when we were children! How very different to the children we seek by His grace to bring up now! He had four brothers: James and Joses, and Juda and Simon, besides “His sisters.” (Mark 6:3). In this verse He is called “the carpenter”, and doubtless as a boy and a young man, He worked at Joseph’s trade in the carpenter shop. Perhaps at this time Joseph was dead, as here our Lord is spoken of as “the son of Mary,” and no mention is made of Joseph.
We know that for some time after He entered His public ministry His brethren did not believe on Him; and it is more than probable that the envy of Joseph’s brothers (in that lovely story in Genesis), so different to their brother Joseph, was but a picture of the envy of these unbelieving brothers in Nazareth. This would make life hard for the Child; but how sweet to see that the one next in age, and perhaps nearest to Him, “James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19), was quickly won to be His loyal and faithful follower. Nor was James the only one of those four who were won by Him; for in 1 Cor. 9:5, we see “the brethren of the Lord” linked with Cephas. And we may well believe, (as we might expect), that each one of that family at Nazareth became earnest, true and devoted followers of their, and our, Lord Jesus Christ.
When we turn to the Epistle of James, written almost surely by our Lord’s brother, we read in the first verse: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is most refreshing to see James link the Lord Jesus Christ with God in this way, showing his absolute faith in the Deity of Christ: and it is lovely to see how wholeheartedly he confesses Him as Lord, and owns himself His “slave”, for this is the meaning of the word translated “servant.” A slave is one bought with a price, and James, the brother of our Lord, openly confesses this of himself in the first words of his letter.
Is it using our imagination too much to suppose that those years, when our Lord was being “brought up” in the same home as James His ‘brother’, were amongst the influences that won him for the One Who was His ‘brother’ yet his Lord? In the light of 1 Peter 3:1, we may suppose that this was the case. Peter is speaking of unbelieving husbands, and he says: “If any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives.” The word translated ‘conversation’ really means: `manner of life; behavior; conduct.’ It is a favorite word with Peter. He uses it eight times in his two little Epistles, while we only find it five other times in the whole New Testament. So, the behavior of the believing wife wins her unbelieving husband. James uses the same word in his Epistles, Chapter 3, Verse 13. I wonder if he was thinking of ‘the manner of life’, ‘the behavior’, ‘the conduct’ of Him Whom he had watched so closely throughout childhood, boyhood, and manhood, as he wrote those words? His mother kept all these sayings in her heart, and I doubt not His sayings and His manner of life had entered deeply into the heart of James also.

"Suffer the Little Children"

I cannot pass by the mothers who brought their “little children” to our Lord, that He might put his hands on them and pray. We find the story told three times: Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17. Luke, the doctor, tells us that they were “newborn babes” (Brephos). Mark, who so often records minute details of our Lord’s look, or tone, or act, tells us that “He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” Here the Spirit of God uses a very strong word for bless, reserved for these little children alone, and used in no other place in the New Testament. It might be translated, “He fervently blessed them”. And when the disciples rebuked these mothers, Mark tells us also, that the Lord was “much displeased.” Again the Spirit uses a very strong word, that has the meaning of being “grieved, indignant, and angry.” You remember how He said: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and hinder them not.” (New Translation). We read in the New Testament six times of others being much displeased, or grieved, or indignant, or angry: the disciples themselves on more than one occasion, the Pharisees, the ruler of the synagogue. But only once do we ever find this word used of our Lord, and that was towards His own disciples, when they tried to hinder the mothers bringing their little ones to Him. There is a very grave lesson for us in this word; for, sad to say, there are many today, good men too, who walk in the disciples footsteps, and seek to hinder Christian parents bringing their little children to the Lord. These persons think they are doing God service, but I sadly fear their Lord is grieved, indignant, angry. “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.”

Only Begotten Children

In the Gospel of Luke we find a special group of families which we may well ponder. They are those in which we find that touching word “Only-Begotten.” We know the word well from the writings of the Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. It instantly brings to our mind that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16); or “The only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”. (John 1:14); or “the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father”. (John 1:18). In all John uses this beautiful word five times of our Lord Jesus, including once in his First Epistle. But Luke, earlier in the Scriptures, uses the very same word of three families: as though to teach us something of the pathos contained in it, before the Spirit would use it of "the only-begotten of the Father.”
1) The Widow of Nain
Luke, you remember, was a doctor, and had that trained mind that took in the details of the sickness and sorrow to which, doubtless, (like most doctors today), he was no stranger. In Luke 7:11-15, we have the story of our Lord meeting a funeral coining out of the city of Nain. It was of a dead man, the only-begotten son of his mother, and she was a widow. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, “Weep not!” And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!” And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.
What sympathy, what understanding, what grace, shine forth from our Savior here. How well He knew that mother’s heart, and shared her sorrow. And He did not claim the young man to follow Him, but gave him back to the widowed mother, to be her comfort and stay. And “Jesus Christ” is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” He does not change. And we will find His sympathy and love and understanding just the same today, as it was long ago outside the gate of Nain.
2) Jairus
In Luke 8:41-56, we have the lovely story of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, whose only-begotten daughter, about twelve years of age, lay dying. Jairus besought the Lord to come to his house to heal her, but there was a delay on the way, and before He reached the home, a messenger came to say the little girl was dead. And they all wept and bewailed her; but He said, “Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.” But they laughed at Him, knowing she was dead. And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, “Maid, arise!” (Mark recalls the very words the Savior used “Talitha Cumi!” Perhaps they mean literally: “Little Darling, I say unto thee, arise!”) And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but He charged them that they should tell no man what was done.
Again we see the loving thoughtful sympathy of our Lord; and again let us remember He is the same today. Perhaps you have lost a little one. That “little darling” is not lost: He will give it back again: not in just the way He gave Jairus back his little darling, but in a better way. You remember when Job lost all his children, and all his goods: he got back double as many of the possessions, but only the same number of children, for the Lord was going to give him back the other children. They were not lost; but only gone on a little before their father. And what comfort to remember the Lord sees our children today as “little darlings”. Perhaps others do not; but the Lord does. And He has purchased them with His own blood, and loves them so dearly that He would have each darling child in His Home, with Himself, forever.
3) the Son With an Evil Spirit
In Luke 9:38, we read of a poor distracted father who had brought his son possessed with an unclean spirit to the disciples, but they could not cast it out. It was a most terrible case, and in his anguish the father cried: “Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son: for he is my only-begotten!” It is not by accident the Spirit uses this touching word in these three lovely stories: rather is it to prepare our hearts, that we may more deeply enter into what it meant for God to give His only-begotten Son for you and for me. May we learn the lesson, in part at least, for never will we know it all. But these three cases should teach us something of what it cost the Father to redeem us poor lost sinners. The father in the story before us did not have much faith, but the Lord rebuked the unclean spirit, and it came out, and He delivered him again to his father. In each case He gave the child back to the parent: though indeed He might have claimed them: but it is
“He who has fashioned a mother’s heart
And furnished it all with love.”
And He knows and understands and cares as none other can, even more than the nearest and the dearest. And let us ever remember that His sympathy today, in our sorrows with our children, is just as real and true as it was long ago.
In sickness or in health, in life or in death, the best thing we can do with our children is to commit them to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Zebedee's Children

“Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence, He saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” (Matt. 4:18-22). This is our introduction in the New Testament to Zebedee and his children. From Luke 5 we learn that Simon and Andrew were their partners in the fishing business, and from Mark 1 we learn that Zebedee not only had his two sons helping him, but “hired servants” also.
“They immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.”
“I heard His call, Come, Follow!
That was all.
My gold grew dim, my soul went after Him,
I rose and followed, That was all.
Who would not follow, if they heard His call?”
We hear not a word of reproach from Zebedee: and when later his wife followed Him also, and ministered to Him of their substance (Matt. 27:55-56), we still hear of no protests. We know very little about him, though his name is mentioned some twelve times in the Gospels. We seem to know a little more about “the mother of Zebedee’s children”, than of Zebedee himself. Her heart was evidently won by the Master her sons had followed. She knew He was a King, and was one day coming into His kingdom. Perhaps she knew still more, for she worshipped Him. (Matt. 20:20-21). But she did not know or realize that He was a rejected King, and that she was living in the time of His rejection. She came with her sons seeking the highest place in the kingdom for them. She did not know that Christ Jesus made Himself of no reputation. But the Lord answered her: “Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They thought they were able, and He replies that they should indeed drink of His cup, and be baptized with His baptism, but He did not promise the high place they were seeking.
It would take a book, perhaps many books, to mediate on all the path of the children of Zebedee: but I want to think a little of the scene we have just been looking at. They were not the first ones to whom the Lord had need to say: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” (Jer. 45:5). And we are sometimes tempted to seek great things for ourselves, or for our children. “Seek them not.” This is the day of our Lord’s rejection. This is the day when we may share His cup of suffering and sorrow. Seek not wealth or power for your children. “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10). Far better, like James and John, to forsake all and follow Him.
Earthly blessing and an earthly portion were promised to the Jew: but our citizenship is in Heaven. We are not of this world, even as our Lord and Master was not of this world. The day of glory is coming. We are joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. But one who knew more of suffering with Him than almost any other, adds: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:17-18).
“I will give her My cross of suffering,
My cup of sorrow to share:
But with endless love, in My Home above,
All shall be righted there.”

Mary, the Mother of John Whose Surname Was Mark

You remember on the night the angel brought Peter out of prison, in Acts 12, he went “to the house of Mary, the mother of John, whose surname was Mark.” They were having a prayer meeting at Mary’s house that night. It was a special prayer meeting for Peter; and the Lord heard and answered, even as they prayed. But I am afraid they had not a great deal of faith, (they were perhaps rather like some of us today), for when Peter came and knocked at the door, and Rhoda (the girl who answered the knock) told them that Peter stood at the gate, they would not believe her, and told her she was mad. When she insisted it was so, they said: “It is his angel,” (or, his spirit).
Mark was a cousin of Barnabas. (Col. 4:10, New Translation). From Babylon, Peter writes of him as “my son.” (1 Peter 5:13). With an earnest Christian Mother and Cousin, the saints meeting in his Mother’s house; and being so closely linked with Peter, knowing him perhaps from childhood, Mark must have had strong influences from the time he was quite young to follow the Lord. Some have thought he was the “young man” with the cloth cast about his naked body who followed the Lord to the Garden. You remember when “the young men laid hold on him.... he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.” (Mark 14:51-52). Only Mark tells us of this incident: but we have no certainty that it was he.
Mary had a house large enough for the saints to meet in and she evidently offered them the use of it. Barnabas had land and sold it, and laid down the money at the apostle’s feet: so they evidently were a well-to-do and thoroughly good family.
When Barnabas and Saul took alms from Antioch to the relief of the brethren in Judaea, they saw John Mark, and when they returned from Jerusalem they took him with them. It may not have been long after that the Holy Spirit sent forth Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey; and John Mark went with them “to their minister”, or, to help them. (See Acts 13:5). It was not long before they got into dangerous and difficult country, “and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” (Acts 13:13). The Word does not tell us that it was the dangers and hardships of the way, or homesickness for his Mother, or what motive, made him depart: but it surely was not following the Lord.
When next we hear of him, Paul and Barnabas had been up to the great meeting at Jerusalem, to decide whether or not the Gentiles were to be put under law, or not (Acts 15). Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and after a time Paul said to Barnabas: “Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.” Barnabas wanted to take his young cousin along with them again, but Paul thought it not good to take him with them, who departed from them and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they parted from each other, and Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; while Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. It was a sad, sad quarrel; and we never read that Paul and Barnabas labored together again.
How good that this is not the end of the story, though perhaps some twenty years roll by before we hear of John Mark again. Twenty years of labor lost, as far as the revealed records show: lost, apparently, through cowardice and unfaithfulness, with no record of repentance, but going on outwardly, perhaps, in the service of the Lord. These are matters that may well challenge our own hearts. He was a failing servant, and for that failure seems to have been set aside. Perhaps he was in Babylon with Peter for part of this time, (1 Peter 5:3), and who was better fitted than Peter to lead a failing servant back to the true path again? He could remind Mark of that terrible failure of his own, (doubtless he knew about it already), and Peter could point out that there was no need for him to be set aside as to his service: there is a way back. It was only a matter of days before Peter was restored: it was many years with Mark, but there is a way back. So in Col. 4:10, we find Mark in Rome, with Paul, the very one who had opposed him going with them to the work. This is as it should be. The meeting of Mark with Paul is not described, but the old blot is evidently removed and Paul writes: “Aristarchus my fellow-captive salutes you, and Mark, Barnabas’s cousin, concerning whom ye have received orders, (if he come to you, receive him), and Jesus called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These are the only fellow-workers for the kingdom of God who have been a consolation to me.” (New Translation). It would seem that Mark had not even been received: but now things have been set right, the old trouble is healed, the failure forgiven; and Mark is a comfort to Paul the prisoner.
But the days grow darker, and the courage of most fail, and nearly all forsake Paul: but Mark stands true and loyal to him. He has learned his lesson well: and in 2 Tim. 4:11, we read: “Luke alone is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thyself, for he is serviceable to me for ministry.” Sweet it is to see Mark fully restored to his old place, “serviceable for ministry”, where once he had been unserviceable. But those days are gone, and in his darkest hour, Paul asks for Mark. Paul is not now confined in his own hired house, but in a terrible Roman dungeon. Tradition tells us it was a lower dungeon, dark and damp, with no opening but a hole through which the prisoners were let down. There in that dungeon, we may suppose, Mark meets Luke, the Beloved Physician, who alone was with Paul: and together they share the rejection and danger of ministering to the aged Apostle, who is only waiting for the time of his departure.
And Mark and Luke have kept close company ever since: the failing (but restored) servant has given us the account of the Great Servant Who never failed; and the beloved physician has given us the account of the Great Physician, who lived among us, a Man among men.
But these meditations were supposed to be on the relation of parent to child, and I seem to have forgotten that entirely. What is the lesson for us in this aspect? I think it is this: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6). He may wander from the path for a time in self-will, and yield to the flesh: but when he is old, the Lord will bring him back to the early training, and he will walk in “the way he should go.” I think, I hope, that is the lesson in this story. At least, that is the lesson I have taken from it, and I do not think my Lord will reproach me for having done so.

A Series of Households

1) Cornelius
We have looked at many households in the Bible, and now come to a remarkable series of households in the New Testament, all of which are Gentile, evidently recorded by the Holy Spirit for a special purpose. The first we meet is, as far as I know, that of Cornelius. He feared God with all his house. (Acts 10:2). He was right in seeing that his whole household followed him in his fear of God, and God takes special note of it. When Peter recounts his visit with Cornelius to the saints at Jerusalem, he says that the angel told Cornelius to send to Joppa for Peter, “who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” (Acts 11:14). We shall meet with almost exactly these same words in pondering another “house”, so that it would seem to suggest that these very words, which include the house, are the Holy Spirit’s own special message to those who truly desire to be saved. We need not now be concerned with who composed Cornelius’ household, but we must note the word is the same as of old: “Thou and thy house.” (Gen. 7:1).
2) Lydia
The next household we meet is that of Lydia “a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira.... whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.” (Acts 16:14-15). The Lord opened the heart of Lydia and she opened her house. It is all individual. Her own personal salvation was unquestionable, and so she was baptized. But what about her household? Were the members of it saved? Were there children in it or not? On all this the Scripture is absolutely silent: and it is not silent for the purpose of giving us the opportunity to speculate about these matters. The Spirit of God has another purpose in view in the way He records these various households. So the important thing for us is to note what the Scripture says, and not add our own thoughts: and the Scripture records that Lydia’s household was baptized, without any mention whatever of faith, real or otherwise, on their part. The narrative is complete. The Spirit has told us all He wished us to know, and we dare not add to it by reasoning or surmising. As the Scripture records it, Lydia’s whole household was baptized on the ground of her faith.
It is very sad that these households which have been specially recorded for the instruction, comfort, and encouragement of us Gentile believers, have with very many been turned into a subject for vain speculation and dispute. How much better were we to come to the Scriptures to humbly seek to hear what they would teach us, instead of trying to force into them our own views and ideas. Let us, then, seek grace and humility to lay aside our own opinions, and to hear only what the Word says. It is no new thing in the Scriptures to see the household brought into a place of external blessing, on the ground of the individual faith and responsibility of its head. We noted this at some length in the case of Rahab, and might have spoken of the same thing in connection with other households.
Previous to Noah, individual relationship and responsibility, as in Abel, Enoch, and others was the principle that God recognized, and on which He acted. But with Noah came a new development in God’s dealings with man. Responsible government was introduced, and God commanded: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Gen. 9:6). This was something new in God’s order; and with the introduction of government, God also disclosed household relationship with its corresponding responsibility, attached to its head. “Come thou and all thy house into the ark, for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.” (Gen. 7:1). No mention is made of the righteousness or faith of the household, but the whole house entered the ark on the ground of that of its head: and so even Ham, who afterward proved to be so evil, was brought into a place of external blessing on the ground of his father’s righteousness and faith. “By faith Noah.... prepared an ark to the saving of his house.... and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Heb. 11:7).
Many other instances of this principle appear in the Old Testament. All the men of Abraham’s house were circumcised on the ground of Abraham’s faith. (Gen. 17:27, 27). We find Abraham’s whole household again linked with him, in Gen. 18:19. ~ ~ ~ Note that the Lord was ready to save all of Lot’s household. The angels said to him: “Hast thou here any besides? son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place.” Those sons-in-law were probably Sodomites, yet for Lot’s sake, the Lord would have saved them, had they been willing to be saved. (Gen. 19). ~ ~ ~ Potiphar’s whole house was blessed for Joseph’s sake. And Joseph was his slave. (Gen. 32:5). ~ ~ ~ We find the same principle when Pharoah wished to keep the little ones in Egypt. The grand reply is: “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go.... there shall not an hoof be left behind.” (Ex. 10:9, 26). This beautifully illustrates God’s grand principle that the whole household, and all that he has, is included with the head of that household. ~ ~ ~ We find the same thing in the Passover: “In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.” (Ex. 12:3). ~ ~ ~ The Spirit of God takes care to point out to us in the New Testament, that when Israel crossed the Red Sea, all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Cor. 10:1, 2). The Scripture tells us there were six hundred thousand men, “beside children”, (Ex. 12:37). Most of these men would be heads of households, and each brought his whole household with him out of Egypt. There were, doubtless, hundreds of thousands of infants and children, all of whom were baptized with their fathers “unto Moses.” By this baptism externally they “all” left the dominion of Pharoah, and “all” came under the authority of Moses, men and women, infants and children, alike. ~ ~ ~ Aaron’s bullock for the sin offering was “for himself, and for his house.” ~ ~ ~ At the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, the households of Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up with them, and these households included little ones. (Num. 16:27, 32-33; Deut. 11:6). ~ ~ ~ The Hebrew servant would not go out free, “because he loveth thee and thine house.” (Deut. 15:16). ~ ~ ~ Thou and thy household were to eat the firstling males of the herd or of the flock. (Deut. 15:20). ~ ~ ~ The same was true of the basket of firstfruits in Deut. 26:11. ~ ~ ~ We have noted Rahab, a Gentile, in Josh. 2:12, 18; 6:23-25. Here we find that her whole household, including the widest possible circle, were saved on the ground of her faith alone. ~ ~ ~ We find another Gentile in Judg. 1:25, who brought blessing and safety to “all his family” by his one act of faith. ~ ~ ~ Obededom the Gittite was another Gentile for whom God acted according to this same truth: “The Lord blessed Obededom, and all his household.” (2 Sam. 6:11-12). ~ ~ ~ Ittai the Gittite (another Gentile from Gath) well understood God’s order in this matter: “David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.” (2 Sam. 15:22). They passed over to share their king’s rejection, along with their father. ~ ~ ~ When Israel was in great fear in the days of Jehoshaphat, “all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” (2 Chron. 20:13). ~ ~ ~ In Nehemiah’s day “they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced.” (Neh. 12:43). ~ ~ ~ We might continue, but I fear I have already wearied you; but I trust that this will make clear that from Noah’s day onward, God’s great principle was: “Thou and thy house.”
The households of Cornelius and Lydia follow on in this remarkable line of households that we find all through the Old Testament. Great efforts have been made to prove that these New Testament households had no children, or that all were of an age to believe, and had done so. To raise such questions when the Holy Spirit deliberately and intentionally is totally silent as to them, is merely to show that he who raises them has entirely missed the object of the Spirit of God. To the one well acquainted with the Old Testament, the term “household” should have become thoroughly familiar, and what it implied should have been well understood. It is almost what we might call “a technical term.” The meaning the Spirit of God has in using it, is to be found in the use He has made of it in earlier Scriptures: and we have seen that it means exactly what it says: all in the house. This might, or might not, include infants, children, or servants; and God did not upbraid Rahab when she stretched the meaning to include parents and brothers and sisters and their families. I suppose it is: “according to your faith, so be it unto you”. Some have pressed that we never find infants or children baptized in the Bible, so we may not include these in the households we are now considering: but we have already seen that some half million or more households, including untold numbers of infants and children, were baptized, as pointed out in First Corinthians. If we are to understand aright these Scriptures we are now looking at, we must accept these households in the way in which the Spirit uses this word, or its representative, as family, little ones, etc., in the earlier portions of the Word: and we must receive these Scriptures as they stand without adding to them.
3) the Philippian Jailor
But we must look further at the households that the Spirit is bringing before us. After Lydia, in the same chapter, verses 25 to 34, we find the household of the jailor at Philippi. Notice the jailor’s question, and the answer: “What must I do to be saved?.... Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Reader, this is for us also. Accept it, believe it, rejoice in it, and thank God for His grace that has given us such a promise for our households. Notice that it is almost the same word as to Cornelius by the angel: but notice also that it does not say: “Believe on Jesus and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” No doubt every one who truly believes on Jesus will be saved: but the promise “and thy house” is for one who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. This involves bowing to His Lordship, and seeking by His grace to keep His word, and put Him first in our lives.
The “house” being included in the head of it, Paul and Silas spoke unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And the account continues: “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” (Acts 16:33, 34). One would suppose from this that all in the jailor’s house believed when Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to them: but the Greek New Testament, in the words uttered by the Holy Spirit, does not say this. The Revised Version renders it: “He rejoiced greatly with all his house, having believed in God.” The New Translation by Mr. Darby has “he laid the table for them, and rejoiced with all his house, having believed in God.” The Greek word “having believed” is nominative, singular, masculine, and can refer only to the jailor. We have seen a very similar example of the rejoicing in the case of the wives and the children in Nehemiah’s day: and some of these “children” were almost surely too little to understand the cause of the joy, yet they rejoiced in the joy of their parents. Again we see that the Scripture is totally silent as to who composed the household, and as to their spiritual condition. The faith, conversion and baptism of the jailor are unquestionable, but the verbs rejoiced and believing are both in the singular, and apply to the jailor: though the household rejoiced with him, or “as a household”, or, “householdly”, if we could use such a term. Do not think it is an accident that the Spirit of God is silent in these cases as to the faith of the households, or who composed them. This silence is intentional, to bring home to us Gentiles, that God’s great principle of external blessing for the household on the ground of the faith of its head, also applies to us.
4) Crispus
The next household brought before us is that of Crispus. “Crispus, the chief ruler of the Synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house.” (Acts 18:8). Here we have the faith of the whole household recorded, in contrast to the silence regarding those we have already looked at. But it is striking to observe that the Scripture says nothing about the baptism of the household of Crispus, though Paul tells us that he baptized Crispus, but says nothing of his household.
(1 Cor. 1:14). Please notice carefully that the households not spoken of as believing, were baptized: while another which did believe, is not mentioned as being baptized. Why is this? For surely the Scripture is absolutely perfect in what it relates, and what it withholds. Nobody would question the baptism of the household of Crispus: they all believed, and so of course were all baptized, even though the Scripture does not tell us so. But it might be questioned whether a household, in the absence of faith, had a right to be baptized. We believe that this shows forth the excellence and perfection of the Holy Scriptures in a way that speculation and surmising never can.
5) Stephanas
In 1 Cor. 1:14-16, we read of still another household: that of Stephanas. “I baptized also the household of Stephanas.” Nothing more is told us of this household until we come to 1 Cor. 16:15, when we read: “Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” It might seem from this latter Scripture that those in the household of Stephanas were old enough to minister to, or serve the saints, and so had passed the age of infants or children: but the word used in Greek for the household of Stephanas in the first chapter is a wider word than that used of it in the 16th chapter. This would intimate that all the house of Stephanas was baptized, but only part, a narrower circle, perhaps excluding little children, addicted themselves to the service of the saints. So once again the Scripture is entirely silent as to who composed the household of Stephanas, and silent as to their spiritual condition: yet Paul himself baptized it. If we are wise we will learn from these silences, as well as from what is revealed to us.
There was nothing further from my thoughts when I began than to touch on the vexed question of the baptism of our children; but in meditating on Scripture households, it seemed hardly upright to either pass over this remarkable series of households in the New Testaments or to refrain from seeking to point out what appears to the writer to be the evident intention of the Holy Spirit in recording them in this particular manner for us. I know nothing of “Infant Baptism,” or “New Birth by Baptism”, in the Scriptures; but I do not believe any true Christian who believes the Scriptures can deny that the baptism of households is plainly taught in the Word of God. They may not like it. They may not believe in it. They may refuse to bow to it, as so many around us refuse to bow to clear truths in the Scriptures that they cannot deny. But I do not believe that any honest Christian can say that the baptism of households, entirely apart from any mention of their faith, is not plainly taught in the Word of God. O my loved ones, may God give us grace not only to hear His Word, but also to do it. (See Matt. 7:24.)
6) the House of Onesiphorus
You will remember we have spoken of Jonathan, who was not willing to share David’s rejection. Onesiphorus is a name that will live to all eternity, as one who not only was willing to share the rejection and reproach of Christ, but who very diligently sought out Paul, and found him, when he was the prisoner of Nero, chained in a Roman dungeon. From that dungeon lie writes: “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” (2 Tim. 1:15). Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor, and Paul had labored there for three years. Read the latter part of the 20th of Acts, telling of that most touching parting between Paul and the elders of Ephesus. You remember they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him. But now Paul was a prisoner in a Roman dungeon, and they were ashamed of him, and also it was dangerous to be known as one of his friends: so all in Asia forsook him, and that included those elders at Ephesus. This does not mean they turned away from Christ, and later on the Apostle John writes a letter to the assembly at Ephesus, with much good to say of them: but they were a fallen assembly, though outwardly so fair, for they had left their first love. (Rev. 2:4). I think that fall began when they turned away from Paul. And it was not only those of Asia who forsook that scorned, rejected man at this time. At his first answer before Nero, no man stood with him, “but all forsook me”, the Apostle writes. Only Luke was with him of all his beloved fellow-laborers. They were dark days indeed. There are a few other names of those who were not ashamed of the rejected servant: his beloved “Prisca and Aquila”, who had so long been true to him, were still unchanged. Then there is Trophimus left sick at Miletum; and from the assembly in Rome there were Eubulus, Pudens and Linus and Claudia (the last, probably, a blue-eyed, fair-haired British maiden; only a little later we hear of a “Pudens and Claudia” in Rome as husband and wife.)
It was in these dark days that Onesiphorus came to Rome from Ephesus, “And”, writes the Apostle, “he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.” (2 Tim. 1:16-18).
How refreshing it is to find one whose love and loyalty stood the test: one who was willing to share the rejection and danger of the old Apostle. As he shared Paul’s rejection, he was also sharing the rejection and reproach of Christ, and like Moses of old, I doubt not, he esteemed it greater riches than this world could offer. There is something very touching in the little company bound so closely together by devotedness to JESUS— and another has said: “Devotedness to Jesus is the strongest bond between human hearts.” How closely would they be bound to each other, when all else had forsaken them: the old Jewish prisoner, the Greek doctor, the British maiden and the visitor from Ephesus. We can almost see them, and we can enter a little into their thoughts and feelings: may the Lord help us to be true and loyal as they were, in face of such fearful danger!
But it was the household of Onesiphorus we intended to consider, and I have wandered far away from it. The Apostle writes: “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus.” (2 Tim. 1:16), and again: “Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.” The whole household is linked up with the loyalty of its head; the whole household is specially commended to the mercy of the Lord for Onesiphorus’s loyal and loving heart. Like Ittai of old, the whole household shared the rejection with its head. This is as it should be. May it be so indeed in our households!
- -
And the Lord is still rejected, and most today have turned away from Paul, and his teaching. Thousands upon thousands gladly accept salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ: but few there are today who are willing to go forth unto Him without the Camp, bearing His reproach. That is the test. Lord Jesus, give us so to have our eyes fixed on Thee, our hearts filled with Thy love, that like Onesiphorus and his household we may esteem Thy reproach at its true worth!
“Therefore sad and strange to them the splendors
Of the world must be,
O forgotten and rejected Jesus,
We have looked on Thee!”
7) Caesar’s Household
“All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (Phil. 4:22). I can hardly pass by this household, though I have nothing to say about it. It was perhaps the hardest household in all the world for a Christian, but Christians were there. Some of noble birth we know, some of lesser rank, but each name known by the Lord who had called them: and the day is coining soon when we will meet them. Some, we know, laid down their lives for their Lord and Master. Our lot may be cast in a difficult “household”, let us remember the saints of Caesar’s “household” if we are tempted to be discouraged. I might add the word for “household” is the narrower word, used also of the house of Stephanas in 1 Cor. 16:15.
Saints in Caesar’s Household
Phil. 4:22
The’ vice, flagrant and unblushing,
Nero’s palace boldly trod,
In that vile court’s baleful precincts
There were some who walked with God.
Like the few souls, who, in Sardis
Kept unspotted from the world,
So these Saints in Caesar’s household
Held their stainless flag unfurled.
Trusting in their Savior’s merits,
Leaning on their Savior’s might,
They were proof against temptation
Now they walk with Him in white!
Lord, Thy power can keep Thy children
In the most unlikely place.
There is no temptation sent them
Which is greater than Thy grace.
Kathleen Cooke
8) The Household of Narcissus
This is another household of which we know almost nothing, “Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus.” Such is the brief reference in Rom. 16:11. And there is not even the word for “household” in the Greek Testament, only “those of Narcissus.” But the Lord has allowed a very interesting old inscription to come to light, that may tell us a little more. Narcissus, (we do not know for certain that it is the same man) was the freed-man and favorite of Claudius Caesar, but was put to death by Nero. The old inscription records the name of “Dikoeosyne”, which means “Righteousness”, the wife of T. Claudius Narcissus; a woman who is described as “most devout and simple in her life.” This may well be the widow who was now head of the “household of Narcissus”, who had learned from the Gospel what was true righteousness. It is sweet to think of this devout and simple mother bringing up her household in Rome for the Lord, and rejoicing in His righteousness.
9) The Households of Aristobulus and Chloe
“The Household of Aristobulus” in Rom. 16:10, and “The House of Chloe” in 1 Cor. 1:11, are similar in form of wording to that of the household of Narcissus. They are two more witnesses to the blessed fact that in those early days, the heads of the households brought their households with them to follow the Lord.
10) The Elect Lady and Her Children
“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth.... Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.... The children of thy elect sister greet thee.” (2 John 1, 3, 4, 13).
Here we have two more families of children who are followers of the Lord; and one family, certainly, with their Mother, walking in the truth. It is to this family, this Mother with her children, that the Spirit of God, by the Apostle John, sends the solemn message not to receive any into her house if they do not bring the doctrine of Christ, nor even to bid them God Speed, “for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” This is “truth” for today in which you and I should walk, just as truly as in the days of the Apostle John. But today there are perhaps many more who do not bring the “doctrine of Christ”, and we, even the ladies and children, need to give the more earnest heed to this solemn admonition.
11) Archippus
“Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philem. 1:1-3). Philemon was evidently a wealthy man, with slaves under him. One of his slaves, Onesimus, ran away and went to Rome. Probably he stole from his master before he left. In Rome he met the Apostle Paul, and through him, Onesimus found the Lord, and became His slave.
Paul writes this exquisite little Epistle, commending Onesimus to his old master, as he sends him back again. This is God’s order, and we may well believe that Philemon receives him now “forever; not now as a slave, but above a slave, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord.”
Apphia we suppose to be the wife of Philemon, the mistress of the household; and Archippus was, we may suppose, their grown-up son. His name means, “Captain of the Horse.” Perhaps he was a young cavalry captain in the Roman army. We believe they lived at Colosse, (Col. 4:17), though of this we are not certain. But we do know that the assembly of believers in the town in which they lived gathered at their house.
A special service had been entrusted to Archippus, the son. What that service was we are not told; but the Apostle writes: “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.” (Col. 4:17). When the man traveled into the far country, in Matt. 25:14-30, he delivered his goods unto his own servants: “to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability.” And I suppose there is not one of my readers to whom the Lord has not entrusted some special service.... to each of us according to our several ability. We may not do as the servant with the one talent did, and hide our talent in the earth; but the Lord’s word to Archippus comes to every one of us who belong to Him, and to each of our children, who are His: “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.”
Well indeed it is if we parents or grandparents may be enabled to help to train these abilities, these talents, so that they may be “fulfilled”, filled to the full, used in their best and highest way by each of our children. We have seen that these children are only a loan from the Lord to us, to train up for Himself. He has given to each abilities, talents, which they are responsible to use for Himself, and it is our happy privilege to seek to help them to fulfill this ministry. May God give us the faithfulness and the wisdom we so sorely need to truly do this wisely and well for Him, Whose they are and Whom they serve.
12) Timothy
We come now to one of the most charming of the New Testament families. We are introduced to Lois the Grandmother, and to Eunice the Mother, of young Timothy. The apostle bears witness to the unfeigned faith in both grandmother and mother (2 Tim. 1:5). And in 2 Tim. 3:15, we read, “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.”
What a heritage for any child! To know the Holy Scriptures. We may have little to leave our children in the way of earthly possessions, but if we have given them, from a child, the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, we have given them greater riches, greater treasures, than all else this world possesses. Lois the grandmother and Eunice the mother both had real faith, and we may be sure it was they who taught Timothy, while yet an infant, (for so the Greek word means) the Holy Scriptures, for his father was a Greek.
The result? You all know it. Read the First and Second Epistles to Timothy. I suppose there is nothing like them in all the literature in the whole world. By nature timid, ready to give way to tears, young and tender in age: this is the young man, one might perhaps almost say, boy, on whom the great Apostle leaned, more than on any other. Why? The Holy Scriptures hidden in his heart, and unfeigned faith.
This is an example that all may follow: may we the grandparents, and you the parents, seek with all our strength, and with wisdom from above, to do for our darlings what Lois and Eunice did for Timothy. Surely we may count on the only One Who can, to work that change within, that the Scriptures call being “born again”; and the unfeigned faith, and the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, will carry and guard each dear one through all the path before them.

Exhortations to Parents

1) (New Testament)
The stories of children with their parents have drawn to a close: not that we have exhausted our Treasure House, for I can think of many another; but I fear I have exhausted your patience, and so I turn for a brief moment to the exhortations that Scripture gives to parents. We have looked a little at those in the Old Testament already. But now I want to bring you to the New Testament exhortations: and strangely enough I seem unable to find any such exhortations for the Mother. I suppose the “mother-love” should make her wise enough to know how to deal with each child, without instructions: though she might do well to bear in mind the Divine instructions to her husband.
For there are instructions— very few, and very simple— for the Fathers. Many a heart-ache will it save, if only these few words may find a permanent lodgment in the father’s heart.
Eph. 6:4 reads: “And ye fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.” The Greek word for “Do not provoke” is one that is rarely used. The only other place we find it in the New Testament is in Rom. 10:19. The noun formed from it is found in Eph. 4:26, but nowhere else in the New Testament. There it means “Irritation”. You have been irritated, and the Lord says: “Let not the sun go down on your irritation.” Perhaps the exhortation to the fathers might be rendered: “Ye fathers, do not irritate your children.” How easy it is to irritate them. The word is not as strong as to make them angry. Perhaps it includes the teasing that so often we are tempted to indulge in towards our children. Perhaps we think we have a right to do this, and that it is good for them. On the contrary, it is direct disobedience to the Word of God, and will most surely bring a harvest of sorrow. We are to “bring them up.” The word translated in this way is used again in the 5th Chapter of Ephesians, verse 29; where we read that Christ ‘nourishes’ the church. We are not to “drive” the children, but “bring” them: and what a difference! We are to bring them up in the “nurture.... of the Lord.” This word translated ‘nurture’ literally means ‘the rearing of a child.’ We find it again in 2 Tim. 3:16, where it is translated “Instruction.” There it is the Word of God, the Scriptures, which ‘nurture’, or ‘instruct’ us. In Heb. 12:5, 7, 8, 11, we find it again, translated this time: ‘Chastening.’ This includes the disciplinary spankings and other punishments that we are responsible to give our children, and the Scripture tells us that at the time this “does not seem to be a matter of joy, but of grief; but afterward yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised by it.” (Heb. 12:11, New Translation). We are disobeying the Lord when we do not chastise our children, but we have noticed this when speaking of Eli and his sons. But let us bear in mind that to bring our children up in the nurture of the Lord, chastisement is included. This word also includes training, learning, instruction, discipline: each one is most important for the child in its own way, and all included in “nurture.” But there is another word. We are to bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The word admonition literally means “Putting in mind.” Perhaps most children are forgetful, and part of their training is to put them in mind. What patience is needed for this. Perhaps the word also includes teaching, exhortation, and warning: surely not threatening. All these we must have, but all are to be “of the Lord”. And let us remember, never are we to irritate them.
We get another little word for the fathers in Col. 3:21. It is only one line in my Greek Testament: but how much is found in that one line! “The fathers, do not stir up your children, in order that they may not be disheartened.” The word for stir up (or, provoke) is found also in 2 Cor. 9:2; not elsewhere in the New Testament. God our Father is the God of all Encouragement, and we are not to do anything that will dishearten, or discourage, our children. Our character towards them is to be the same as our Father’s character towards us: Encouragement. May the Lord Himself teach us how to do this according to His will: to imitate (literally— mimic) Him. Eph. 5:1.
Some of us, with whom the opportunity to heed these admonitions is passed, look back with bitter regret on times we have failed to give heed to them. May the dear ones for whom these lines were penned forgive these failures toward them, and may they never have such regrets, as they grow older.
Though there does not seem to be any special admonition to the mothers, there is a most important message to the young women, and it is clear this message includes the young mothers. The Apostle is telling Titus of the duties of the aged women; and part of this duty is to ‘teach’ or ‘admonish’ the young women. It is a remarkable word, used only here in the New Testament. It literally means to “recall one to his senses.” Very similar words are used in three other places in this chapter, and translated ‘discreet’ or ‘sober’. Well, the aged women are to admonish the young women to be “attached to their husbands, to be attached to their children, discreet, chaste, (pure, undefiled), diligent in homework, (literally— workers at home: a very much needed word today, when there is a special temptation to ‘work away from home’), good, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be evil spoken of.” (Titus 2:4, 5).
2) Old Testament Admonitions
Let us look together at a few of the Old Testament exhortations to us who are parents or grandparents, for we find both are included.
“Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.” (Deut. 4:9). A word for each of us there.
“And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thine house, and on thy gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9).
“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.” (Deut. 11:19-21).
These Scriptures may well give us to understand the urgency of teaching our children the Scriptures. As they get older, school work and homework will take up their time; and year by year you will find your opportunities grow less. While they are little children is the time to teach them this blessed Book. When we were children, my Mother used to gather us every day, in our holidays especially, and she would read aloud to us; and make the dear old Book live to each one of us. I feel sure that each child in our family looks back with unmixed and unbounded pleasure to those afternoon reads with our Mother. It was no weariness to us, whatever it may have been to her, to sit and listen to stories from the Bible; and what little we may know of the Holy Scriptures, I am sure we largely learned from her. Our Father, too, taught us in the daily morning and evening readings; and we had an Aunt and a Grandmother, who also taught us these Holy Scriptures. They each one loved them, and we well knew that; perhaps that was the secret that unconsciously made us love the Holy Scriptures also.
When we turn from the Book of Deuteronomy to the Book of Proverbs, we find an entirely different type of admonition to the parent.
“A wise son maketh a glad father; but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.” (Prov. 10:1; See also 15:20; 19:13; 29:3).
In a sense this verse might be taken to sum up much of the teaching of the Book of Proverbs. It has been called The Young Man’s Book, and there is much truth in this saying, though the young women should equally give heed to it. You will note in the verse just quoted, and the verses quoted below, that the word is addressed to the “son” and not to the “father”. It is the father who is speaking. And that father was Solomon. And as we read these earnest, burning words, and then remember Solmon’s son, Rehoboam, and all his evil, the tragedy of it seems increased a thousand fold. The fault, as we have seen, lay with Solomon himself, and the seeds of the trouble went back even to David. But that does not lessen the sorrow one feels in reading the Book of Proverbs, with one eye fixed on Rehoboam. Yet all the words are true, and if our children would but heed them, how much sorrow and misery they would be saved from.
We will now quote a few of these exhortations to the “son”, which you will note is in reality the very same teaching as we have just seen in Deuteronomy, but from another point of view.
“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” (1:8).
“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. (3:1-2).
“Hear ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, let thine heart retain my words; keep my commandments and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.” (4:1-5).
“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” (4:20-22).
“My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding; that thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.” (5:1-2).
“Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth.” (5:7).
“My son, keep my words and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.” (7:1-3).
“Doth not Wisdom cry? Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children; for blessed are they that keep my ways.” (8:1, 32).

"A Wise Son Heareth His Father's Instruction."

(Prov. 13:1)
You will notice that the Scriptures we have just quoted come from the first half of the Book of Proverbs. In the latter part of this Book we find more admonitions to the parents. It may be in his later life, when he saw that it was too late, and there was no hope, that Solomon learned these lessons that he so earnestly presses on parents today.
When pondering the lessons that Eli and his sons teach us, we looked at a number of these passages that exhort the parent to use the rod. We will not repeat these, with the exception of Proverbs 23:1314: “Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” This is a Scripture that should burn its way into the heart of every parent. We often forget that God says that the use of the rod helps to save our children from hell. The rod is painful for them, and painful for the parent: but how much more terrible for both if the child must suffer the eternal pains of hell, for lack of a few good spankings when the child was young.
Another Scripture we do well to seriously ponder is Prov. 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” We can bend the twig when it is young and green, but soon it gets hard and brittle, and there is no hope to bend it then. There is hope for the children when they are young, and surely that is the time to chasten them. There may be times, even when they are older, when they must be spanking: but it is a much more trying ordeal for both parent and child, than when they were little. Let us remember how quickly the time when “there is hope” passes away, and let us take advantage of it for this painful side of the training; so that later on it may not be needed.
There is one more Scripture which we have spoken of already but which I would like to remind you of again before we leave this most practical Book, and it is Chapter 22, Verse 6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This seems to me to be a very encouraging promise for the parents, and one that we may well take to heart to cheer us on the way, as we seek to train up our children in the way they should go.
The words of the grandfather are ended: but they have greatly condemned him. They have made him feel how he has failed, and how utterly unqualified he was for such a work. But within these pages are promises and warnings, counsel and encouragement, from ‘Him Who Faileth Not’. On these we may rest with implicit confidence. These can surely guide us aright even through these last days when we know that difficult times must come. (2 Tim. 3:1 New Translation). Our own failure and frailty may often cast us down, but let us ever “look off unto Jesus”. There alone will we find strength for the day. And let us ever and always remember, “GOD IS FAITHFUL”.
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“Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16)
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“Our sufficiency is of God.” (2 Cor. 3:5)
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“HIS MERCY ENDURETH Forever” Psa. 136

About the Author

My father, G. Christopher Willis, was born in Toronto, Canada in 1889. At an early age he accepted the Lord Jesus as His Savior and his whole life was devoted to his Master. As a child he used to read “China’s Millions”, a magazine published by what was the China Inland Mission. He was greatly influenced by this and from that time he wanted to go to China, to share the good news. He studied engineering at McGill University and was married a few years later. When he proposed to my mother, it was not, “Will you marry me?” but “Will you go to China with me?”
My parents went to China in 1921 with their three little children. They were “independent” missionaries and things were very hard at first. They moved from South China to Kuling, a beautiful spot in the mountains in Northern China, as the children could not tolerate the weather in the South.
Here my father obtained a job supervising the building of a post-office. Many missionaries used to go to Kuling for their holidays, and here, for the first time, my father met “liberal” Christians. He was so shocked at some of their beliefs, that he wrote to England and bought books to refute their teaching. He used to sell these on the side of the road, in front of the post-office building, during his lunch hour. It was here the idea of a good and sound Christian book shop germinated. In 1924, we moved to Shanghai, where my father opened the Christian Book Room which is still operating.
My parents were both interned by the Japanese during the Second World War and were home in Canada for only a short time before they went back. His whole life was spent serving the Lord and he loved and was dearly loved by the Chinese people.
In all his business he found time to write several books and was often working on illuminated Scripture texts. He operated the Christian Book Room and did a great deal of evangelizing. He finally returned to Canada in 1967.
Even in his old age he still wrote and worked on his illuminated texts and spent much time visiting. I remember so well, when he was unable to care for himself, and I looked after him, the thick calluses on his knees from all the time he spent in prayer. It can be truly said of him that even though he is now with the Lord, his works still speak.
F.M.W. (1989)