In the first article on this subject we answered the question, who are our children? We learned two important truths that are vital to the proper spiritual nurturing of our children. First, we must instruct our children as children of the promise of God’s covenant. God promises believing parents that He will save a people unto Himself in the line of those generations born into the church. This promise does not include every child born into the church. Rather, that promise is spoken organically to the church as a body. But this does not deter believing parents from teaching their sons and daughters in the ways of God and the fear of His name.
A second truth we considered is that our children are sinners. They are conceived and born in sin, and though redeemed in the blood of Christ and born again, they yet carry with them a sinful flesh. They are not without sin or “innocent” until they reach a certain age. Instruction of our children—even the smallest of our children—must, therefore, take sin into account.
In this article we intend to answer another question. The answer to this question is also of vital importance to the nurturing of our preschool children. Who are their teachers from birth until that time they are introduced to other instructors in school? The answer is quite simple: their parents. How exciting when a young married woman of the church learns that she is expecting a child! She and her husband wait with anxious anticipation for the birth of that child. After delivery, that little baby lies in the arms of father and mother. They gaze into the face of the baby God has given them and exclaim with the psalmist, “How fearfully and wonderfully we are made!” In due time they present their infant to be baptized. Before God and the members of the church they take upon themselves the vows of baptism: “We vow (promise) before God and His church that we intend to see this child instructed and brought up in the doctrines of Scripture and the confessions to the utmost of our power.” Every believing parent takes these vows seriously: “Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Ps. 56:12). Or again, “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people” (Ps. 116:18). What, then, do parents promise at the time of baptism? That they will teach their children. They see it as their own particular calling carefully and diligently to instruct their children in the fear and nurture of God and of His Word.
This is the calling of the father, first of all. Fathers are instructed in Psalm 78:5, “For he (God) established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children.” God has commanded fathers to make known the testimonies of God to their children. What does God say concerning Abraham in Genesis 18:19? “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” Or again, the New Testament injunction to fathers in Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The qualification of elders and deacons in the church is, “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (I Tim. 3:4, 12).
We cite these passages to remind fathers that they may not neglect the nurturing of their infant children. In the day of judgment fathers will be held accountable before God for the instruction and care of their children. God has given the father to be head of the family, and as head he is responsible before God for the nurture of his children. This is not a task that fathers may simply leave in the hands of their wives as if his task is to earn a living and the work of the mother is to train his children spiritually. It is true that the wife may be busier in this regard, as we will find, but this does not dismiss the father from the work of teaching and caring for his small children. How he shares in the task we will consider in another article. At this point we simply wish to establish the necessity of father’s active involvement in the nurture of his children.
It is has always been assumed that the majority of the work in training children falls on the shoulders of their mother. The saying was often repeated, “From morning until setting sun a mother’s work is never done.” How true that is! Just read of the wife and mother of Proverbs 31. But that trend seems to be changing within the church today. Women have become career oriented today and wish to join their husbands in the work force rather than being stay-at-home moms. For this reason, it is necessary that we also turn to Scripture to establish the truth of a mother’s place in the home teaching her impressionable little children. Solomon states: “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Prov. 14:1). How does she build her house or family? She “looks well to the ways of the household” (Prov. 31:27, 28). She is pictured in Psalm 128 as a fruitful vine that grows along the side of her house.
The apostle Paul instructs Timothy in I Timothy 5 regarding the qualifications of certain women who were to be accepted into the number of widows. One of those qualifications was that she be “well reported of for good works, if she have brought up her children” (I Tim. 5:10). Paul continues in his instruction in that chapter, telling Timothy that the younger women must be refused from entering this number of widows. He gives the reason for this in verse 14: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Paul gives similar instruction to Titus. Titus must exhort the elderly women of the church to be in behavior as becomes holiness. They must be teachers of good things, “that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4, 5). Mothers also are called to be busy in the nurturing of their preschool children.
We find abundant proof in Scripture that testifies to the reality that the teachers of our little children must be their fathers and mothers. This is the second important principle of nurturing our preschool children. This scriptural principle stands in opposition to the worldly influence and advice of those who deem themselves “professionals” in the area of child-rearing. Where has this advice of “worldly wisdom” taken the children of today’s world and society? Our world is filled with violence and immorality. Listen to the irrational reasoning of the millennials who live out the principles of entitlement, reparation, transparency, and irresponsibility, to name a few. Many of these children come from broken families or from no family at all. As little children, they were left to themselves or given to others who had little concern to shape and mold them into productive, respectful citizens of the country of which they are a part.
What is frightening, however, is when we begin to see this same trend slipping into the realm of the church. To counteract this trend we need to be reminded of the simple truth of God’s Word: God gives to believing parents their children (children of the covenant) for them to raise to the utmost of their power in His fear. The first six years before entering school are the most impressionable, vulnerable, and influential years of our children’s lives. Godly parents must be there to instill in them the necessary knowledge and spiritual values that will guide them throughout their entire lives. God entrusts such instruction to parents, not to others (except under special circumstances), but to those parents to whom He has chosen to give that child. The responsibility of nurturing little children rests on their parents. We emphasize the word responsible because it points to the fact that parents are answerable for this obligation to God. As we wrote, they accepted that responsibility at the time of baptism.
Let me give an example of the importance of parents, especially mothers, in the nurturing of their preschool children. God was pleased to place in the biblical record for us these verses in II Kings 22: “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (1, 2). Three facts are recorded in these verses. First, Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign. Second, he did that which was right in the sight of God and walked after the ways of David. Third, his mother’s name was Jedidah. Now, these facts about Josiah may not stand out as remarkable. But we need to bear in mind the history of the kingdom of Judah that surrounded the reign of Josiah.
Judah was in rapid decline. She soon would be punished for her horrible sins against Jehovah. Manasseh was one of the most evil kings that had reigned in Judah, performing sinful atrocities the accounts of which make us shiver. Manasseh was Josiah’s grandfather. Josiah’s father, Manasseh’s son, was no better. We learn that Amon walked in the same ways that Manasseh did. The servants of Amon conspired against him and assassinated him while Amon sat in his own house. Josiah was the next in line. Then we read that Josiah did that which was right in the sight of God. In fact, Josiah at eight years old walked in all the way of David without turning aside to the right hand or the left. His reign beginning at eight years old was righteous! What possibly could have contributed to this about-face from two horribly wicked kings to a king that walked in the way of David? I mean, Manasseh and Amon were his grandfather and father! Josiah was raised in the atmosphere of the immorality and violence that had overtaken Jerusalem and the palace. How is it possible that this boy at eight years old already would do that which was right in the eyes of God?
Have you ever wondered why the names of the mothers of many of the kings are mentioned in Scripture? Not just the names of the mothers of the good kings but of the wicked kings too. Because while the kings of Judah were consumed, for better or for worse, with the duties of the kingdom, their wives were in charge of the instruction of the children God gave them. The Scripture gives us the name of Josiah’s mother. Her name was Jedidah. She was the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. Jedidah was born in Boscath, in the hill country of Judah far away from the intrigue and sins of the palace. How Amon chose her as his wife is not recorded for us. But she gave birth to Josiah and for eight years instructed her son in the ways of God. She was there to protect him from the sin of her husband. She was there to instill in the heart of her infant son the ways of God in which David walked. She was there to fill his impressionable heart with the words of the covenant God had established with His people in Christ. We know, of course, that this instruction took root in the heart of this little child because God had by His grace regenerated him and instilled in him a child-like faith. But God used the means of this godly woman to teach her son in the way of David. And at eight years old Josiah already did that which was right in the sight of God.
We may never underestimate the labors we perform in the home with our little children. Neither may we underestimate what damage we can inflict on our children when we as parents are not busy with the instruction and care of our children, starting immediately after they are born and through their infancy and toddler years.
May we seek and use the help of others in raising our preschool children? The answer is “yes,” but this will wait until our next article.