Rev. denHartog is pastor of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
I intend in the next few installments to write on the above stated subject. I am thankful for the occasion for new study of this subject and pray that our presentations will be of spiritual benefit for those who read these articles.
The home is, we believe, the wonderful creation of God. It was created by God in the beginning when He created the world and all things in it. We have, I am sure, heard many times that the home is the basic institution of all human society. This truth is worthy of repetition. All other institutions that in the providence of God arose in human society have developed naturally in the course of time from the home: the broader family of several generations, tribes and clans, and finally the nations of the world. All these institutions are greatly influenced by the family even today.
God created man a personal and social being. It is, as God said, not good for a man to be alone. We are to live together in harmony and peace in God’s creation. We are dependent on each other, and we have a moral obligation to care for one another and serve one another. There is joy and blessing in living together as God has made us. The first and great commandment is that we love God, and the second is like unto it, that we love our neighbor.
The beginning of the home was God’s creation of marriage. God created man male and female. He made both male and female after His own likeness. He joined man and woman together in the intimate and mysterious union of marriage in which the lives of two of God’s people are molded together into one. When God establishes a marriage, these two human individuals are no longer two but one. God intended that in marriage man and woman live together in the joy and blessedness of friendship and fellowship in their home. There in the home, husband and wife have the calling to support and encourage each other, nourish and strengthen each other, in the service of the Lord. The home is the place where this couple ideally spend most of their time and should enjoy the intimate life that God intended marriage to be. The very way in which God prepared each partner in marriage established the order for the home. God created man to be the head of his wife and the wife to be his help, suited exactly to complement him and fulfill his need. God formed the woman out of the very flesh and blood of man himself. All of this was done by the wonderful work of God to establish the order of the covenant home for all time and to prepare for the life and happiness and well-being of the covenant home.
The home was further developed when God gave covenant children to Adam and Eve. We know of course that these children were not born until after the fall. God intended that the institution of the home should be the place where covenant children are born and raised and nurtured and prepared for human society. It is the place where children are to be trained to establish their own covenant home someday. It is the place where children must learn to live in broader society outside of their homes.
We do not know whether Adam and Eve lived in any kind of a house in the garden of Eden. Probably not. We might say, however, that the whole of the garden was the home of Adam and Eve. The blessedness of that home for Adam and Eve before the fall was that it was the place where they experienced a living, personal knowledge of God their Creator and enjoyed fellowship, communion, and friendship with the infinitely blessed God, the source and fountain of life and of all good. Together Adam and Eve had the calling to be friend servants of God, by exercising dominion over God’s creation and dressing and keeping the garden. We can only imagine how exceedingly blessed this was for Adam and Eve before the fall.
The covenant life of Adam and Eve was grievously affected by the fall. The fall brought great trouble for marriage and the family. The curse of God came upon Eve as wife and on Adam as husband. The curse for the woman would mean that her desire would be towards her husband and he would rule over her. In pain and sorrow she would bring forth children. Because of the curse of God and the sin that followed upon it, wives would rebel against their God-given husbands. They would forsake the home for fame and glory and achievement in the world independent from their husbands and the home. They now imagine that in the ungodly and sin-cursed world there is greater opportunity for the satisfaction and fulfillment of their pride and lust and worldly pursuits than in the home.
Adam, too, came under the curse. This would affect the very way in which he would live with his wife. Fallen man is filled with lust and pride. He is self-centered, careless about others, seeking only the satisfaction of his own lusts and pride, living only for his own glory in the world. All of this militates against marriage and life in the home. After the fall, man can no longer live in close communion with his God-given wife. The pride and enmity of their sinful nature soon causes division and strife in their relationship. The curse on Adam and all men born from him would result in that the rule over their wives would be unloving and tyrannical and even cruel. They would strive to subjugate their wives, making them virtual slaves in their homes, while they served their own interest and satisfied their evil lust. In the most dreadful scenario, husbands verbally and even physically abuse their wives. Sometimes violence in the home becomes so awful that husbands even murder their God-given wives. Because of man’s corrupt nature after the fall, it is surprising that he can at all live in marriage.
Sexual unfaithfulness and perversion came from the fall. Sex was intended by God to be the source of deep satisfaction and joy and to promote intimacy between a married man and his God-given wife. The fall perverted the act of marriage. All this perversion is the wrecker of marriage and home life. It makes covenant home life virtually impossible. It changes that which God made personal and beautiful and most intimate, exciting, and joyous to be wretched and life-destroying, the source finally of deep resentment, hurt, and bitterness. The immorality that the world so much glories in is the cause of man’s shame and debasement and destruction of human society. The most dreadful human wretchedness and enmity and division follow from this great evil of fallen man.
After the fall, Adam and Eve brought forth children in their home according to God’s mandate for marriage. But they would do so in pain and sorrow. Adam and Eve would not only bring forth God-fearing children such as Abel and Seth, but they would also give birth to a wicked Cain, who in the days of his youth would so hate his own brother that he would rise up to murder him. Can we imagine the sorrow and anguish this must have brought to the home of Adam and Eve!
Most of juvenile delinquency comes from the tragedy of the home situations in the world. This in turn results in violence and crime in the streets of our cities. Few worldly-wise engineers of human society are willing to trace the evil of our modern society to the dreadful evil that is prevalent in homes all over our land. These great evils are seen not only in the homes of what might be called the low-livers of society but also in the homes of those considered the educated and the cultured and the refined. Even the homes of the world’s marriage counselors often are miserable and wretched, though they try to hide this.
Over the years, worldly men have proposed changing the structure of society and replacing the home with other institutions, perhaps those in which all men live communally together. It is said that marriage and the family are archaic institutions that must be abolished. They are irrelevant and perhaps even detrimental to the great society of peace and brotherhood and human greatness that men envision. The public schools have replaced the home to instruct the new generations of youth in the common philosophy of the world and hopefully solve the problems of human society and nations. History has again and again shown the disastrous consequences of the corruption of the divine institution of the home and the attempts to replace the institution of the home that God created, with arrangements of human society invented by man’s folly.
God in covenant mercy gives and maintains the covenant home in the midst of this corrupt and evil world for the benefit of His people. The fellowship of God Himself, and the knowledge of Him and of His love for His people, are and can by His wonderful grace be experienced in the life of the covenant home. These covenant homes are of vital importance for the development of genuine Christian character and of truly Christian society.
The home was considered of greatest importance for the lives of God’s people in the days of the Old Testament. Think of the home life of the patriarchs, many of whom lived in tents all the days of their lives and were pilgrims and strangers in the world. Think of the beautiful illustration of home life in the days of Abraham, when God sent His messengers to commune with Abraham and Sarah in the opening of their tent in the cool of the day. God Himself visited the covenant home of Abraham and Sarah, to make known the secrets of His covenant and to comfort them with the blessed hope of the promised Messiah that was to come.
When the nation of Israel was established in the land of Canaan, the home would be of greatest importance. The strong emphasis on home life would distinguish the nation of Israel from all the pagan nations that lived around her. So Moses the man of God, before he was taken to heaven, gave extensive instruction for how covenant homes were to be established and maintained in the promised land. This instruction is given throughout the book of Deuteronomy. The Psalms sing of the blessedness of the life of God’s people in marriage and the home. Think especially of the description, in Psalm 128, of the blessedness of the man who fears the Lord.
In the New Testament, we find much instruction concerning marriage and the family and home living. Strong and truly Christian homes would have a great influence in society and stand in stark contrast with the ungodly world. They would shine as glorious testimonies of the power of the grace and Spirit of Christ Jesus in the lives of men and women and children. Strong and truly Christian homes would serve greatly for the nurture of future members of the church of Jesus Christ. In these homes they would learn of their own calling and responsibility in the church of Christ. They would learn about their place in the communion of the saints and their calling to love one another. They would learn how to remain steadfast to the Lord even in times of great adversity and persecution.
The home is the place where God’s people spend most of their time. Ideally, as God intended, the home is the place where they experience most intimate fellowship and communion with one another. Married couples, if the Lord so wills, live many days and months and years together in the covenant home. In the home they make their purposes and plans for their whole life together. There the married couple bear together the joys and sorrows of life, the prosperity and adversity, the health and sickness that God in His providence sends. In the home the married couple share the kitchen, sitting together around the dinner table; they relax together from the weariness of life in the living room; and they enjoy the holy intimacy of love and faithfulness in the undefiled marriage bed. In the home the married couple spend the exciting and vigorous days of youth, and in the providence of God the home will be the place where they will still be living together in old age. Every stage of life will have its own experiences, its own joys and sorrows and troubles.
Ideally the covenant home must be the place of shelter and refuge in the midst of an ungodly world. It must be the place of retreat and quiet and peace and relaxed life, away from the busyness and stress, confusion and competition, of life in the world. In an impersonal world, where men live in enmity and careless disregard for one another, the covenant home is the place for personal life and care for one another. The home must be the sanctuary of God in the midst of the temptations and ungodliness of the world. In the home we must learn what it truly means be holy and separate. There we must be equipped to resist the devilish temptations and ungodly lusts of this evil world that threaten to destroy our life in the world.
Children are born and raised and nurtured in the covenant home. Their whole character and personality must be nurtured and developed in the home. Their whole godly perspective on life must be learned during the days that they are in their covenant home. They are in the home from the time they are helpless little babes in their mother’s arms, through the days of joyful and carefree childhood and the days of youth, and finally, hopefully, to the days of adulthood, the time of full maturity, responsibility, and independency. In the home, covenant children must be equipped and prepared for life on their own in the world. They must have the pattern for establishing, the Lord willing, their own covenant home. Home life must prepare covenant young people for the careers that God has called and gifted them for.
One of the most amazing passages in all of the Scriptures giving instruction about what covenant life in the home should be is the one found in Deuteronomy 6-9. In the series of articles I intend to write for this department in theStandard Bearer I want to look carefully at this passage. We will do some exegesis of this passage and try to make some application to life in our homes today. We will also use some of the concepts of this passage to elaborate on specific subjects of covenant life in the home.
Everyone could of course read this passage in his own Bible. But maybe it is good for me to quote it right in this article: “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 thy house, and on thy gates.”
Some would immediately say that this passage was written in a day when the culture was so different from that in our modern world. Therefore there is little relevance of what Moses said to Israel many centuries ago for us who live in 2007. We hope to show in coming articles that this is a great mistake. There is much that we can learn from this Old Testament passage for covenant home life in our modern times and culture.
The life of the covenant home must flow forth from the love of God. This is clear from the instruction that introduces this whole passage, in Deuteronomy 6:5. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Love for God cannot be something cold and formal. It is not a mere emotion or sentimental feeling. We must love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. This love of God and for God must be the mighty, controlling, and inspiring principle for all covenant life in our homes. This love must not be merely talked about but lived and experienced and put into practice in our covenant homes.
If we are to have covenant homes in reality, there must be constant instruction in the statutes and commandments and ordinances of the Lord, our covenant God. For all these must govern the covenant home. These commandments of the Lord must be known and fully understood by parents. They must be carefully taught to the children in the home. They must be followed, practiced, and lived by. There must be relaxed time and opportunity for the instruction and nurture of children in these things. We shall return to all these things in coming articles.