The weather has been beautiful. Spring time is the favorite time of year for me. Sunday was a gorgeous day but Monday did not fair so well. The wind was rather chilly, but the sun stood in the heavens in all its glory. It was the first time of the season that I had no Monday afternoon catechism class for which to prepare. So, I packed up the family and headed for the beach of Lake Michigan. As we put on our jackets, there were others who braved the wind in their bathing suits. But it did not matter, for we had come there for a different purpose. It was our desire to spend some much needed time together as a family. There is something about the breaking of the waves and the vast expanse of sand that is soothing and relaxing. We had appropriately taken along a kite and Frisbee to keep us occupied in case of boredom. Trudging a few hundred feet in the loose sand yielded to us shoes filled with sand and our own peaceful little domain for a few hours. With almost predictable regularity, the Frisbee thrown against the wind would return to us as a dog retrieving a stick for her master. The steady wind set the kite motionless in the heavens. The children began to entertain themselves. It was a time to relax and let one’s thoughts wander and run free. As I observed all these things, I squeezed some of the finely ground sand between my fingers.
How staggering is the creation of our God! The clouds in their ever changing formations present to the eye all sorts of beautiful configurations. The colors, no artist or camera can reproduce. The erosion of the waves, which man vainly tights, are held within their predetermined bounds. I was reminded of Psalm nineteen: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” The sand kept trickling through my fingers. How many grains of sand comprise a handful? The question is impossible! As far as I could see, there was the sand of the seashore.
The Lord speaks loudly! “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed . . . as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of thy enemies; . . . And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee . . . and I will give unto thee, . . . all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” And I continued to watch my children as they played. Little did they know or could they understand the thanksgiving that was in my heart. A few hours at the beach made the romping of my children and a few grains of sand re-echo as a mighty word of promise in my heart and soul.
The Lord has surely blessed us in that He gives unto us the children that are His heritage. Often we like to murmur and complain about the price of food and clothing and sometimes of covenant education. Sometimes our speech is almost analogous to that of the world when they say that anything over two children is an undue burden. The Lord has called us to be the children of Abraham. Not that we are Jews — the Lord is not interested in the propagation of a certain nationality that belonged to the picture and type of the old dispensation — but we are the spiritual children of Abraham, the seed of Abraham in Christ! “For the promise, that he (Abraham) should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith ….to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, . . .” (Rom. 4) How wonderful that our God has effectually throughout preceding generations called His people and kept His covenant with believers and their seed! We can now be thrilled by the words that were spoken to Abraham. We are privileged to see and experience this in our families and congregations. It is not because we have earned it! It is not of works, lest any of us should boast before His face. But it is according to His good pleasure and grace that the promise might be sure to all the seed. For it is God who quickeneth the dead and calls those things which be not as though they were. Thanks be to our covenant God that He continues to call His Church from among us!
My thoughts continued to roam. An allegorical hand full of sand turns out to be a parental lesson. I recalled the Baptism Form which is most beautiful in all its parts. Especially, I thought of the third question that preachers, or better, God, puts to parents when they present their children for baptism. “Whether you promise and intend to see this child . . . instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause him to be instructed therein to the utmost of your power?” And we answered “Yes!” How beautiful and comforting is the truth that God’s covenant with us stands steadfast in His immutability! And how wonderful that it does not depend upon us, for then it would most certainly fail! But amid such comfort and assurance, I, as a parent, shutter. This places before me an awesome responsibility. The children I observe playing in the sand, and your children, are God’s heritage. They are first of all God’s children, and only in the second place are they intrusted to us. And He requires of me that I promise to bring them up in His fear! In my mind I turn to Deuteronomy chapter 6: “And these words which I command thee this day (this chapter comes upon the heels of the Law of God!), shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou 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 thy house, and on thy gates.” What an all-comprehensive and demanding task! We cannot satisfy the affirmative answer to the third question in the Baptism Form by simply giving our children “christian education” or a formal catechism instruction. But it must be on our part a thorough going effort aimed at every part of our child’s development and maturation. As we can readily gather from Deuteronomy, it is the whole of our life as parents. In all of our doing, we teach and instruct our children explicitly or by implication.
And who is man to the task? We know and we confess that we fall far short of this demand. Each night when we place our heads upon our pillows, we must confess before God our shortcomings, inconsistencies, and sins with regard to teaching our children. And, as an aside, I might mention here that it does not hurt us to make this known to our children. It is good to go to the cross with them! I say again, it is wonderful that His covenant does not depend upon our meager efforts!
The awesome responsibility of parents is taken on by faith! To bring children into this corrupt and wicked world brings fear and dread to the hearts of parents. But we can and must cling by faith to the promise which our God gave unto our father Abraham. He will be a God unto us and our children. He will use our efforts, though fraught with sin, to the ingathering of His Church. Oh, this does not mean that all are Israel that are of Israel. The line of reprobation also runs across the sphere of the covenant. And we know that Jacob was beloved of God, yet Esau hated Him. Let us not stagger at the promises of God, but in the strength of faith cherish, piously instruct, and nurture our children which is His heritage in the fear of His name.
A handful of sand — the promise of our God — believers and their seed — an innumerable host which no man “can number, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb forevermore!