Johnny was naughty again today. The rod had to be taken down from the place where it is kept, and Johnny felt its sting. Johnny walked away crying, and only too often, with nothing less than an increased degree of fear for his father or mother. His fear of the Lord had not increased at all. What is wrong with the above description of Johnny’s experience with the rod?
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“Spare the rod and spoil the child.” The Lord Himself declared in, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” In this world of sin and folly in which we live there is a growing tendency among the worldly minded to cast the rod away entirely or even to put it in the hands of the child to use against his parents. At least the practice of the world has that effect. But a properly used rod is a necessity in the Christian home, You have God’s word for it in the text quoted above. God approves of its use. You better not do away with yours, and if you have none by all means provide yourself with one. Have no fear of being cruel or of being considered to be cruel by God. The rod indeed can be and often is misused but that is not because the practice itself is of the devil rather than an instrument for bringing up children in the fear of the Lord, The misuse is simply due to the fact that one does not use it in the fear of the Lord, life who misuses the rod is not living himself from the principle of this fear and consequently in using it, he does not instruct in the fear of the Lord by means of it. He teaches his child to fear the rod or to fear his own violent temper, But that parent who does not use the rod and lets his child grow up with the impression that he can sin and “get away with it” is cruel. You have God’s word for that too. The text above declares that such a parent hates his son.
However, a parent may use that rod faithfully and be under the impression that he is doing what God demands of him while he really is not bringing up his child in the fear of the Lord. As we stated in our first paragraph, the child learns only to fear his parent. This occurs when parents fail to make use of this opportunity to speak to their children about the Lord of heaven and earth, whom they must fear and obey. In using the rod the parents certainly might to explain to their children that their disobedience was not simply a failure to do what father and mother demanded or a performing of that which they had forbidden but that it is a sin against the Lord and that it is the Lord who has given this rod to the parents for the correction and chastisement of His sinning children. How often is the parent himself conscious of that fact? How often is it not the child sees and hears nothing to give him any other impression than that he must simply fear his parents and that makes him long for the time when he will get from under this terrible bondage when lie becomes of age? He must early be taught that lie is the Lord’s servant and that he can never outgrow his obligation to serve Him. He must then also be taught that even though he may disobey his parents and not be found out, there is still the Lord with whom he must contend and to whom he must still give an answer for his deed. Our contention is that when the rod is applied the parent must use a few words of Christian admonition and explanation to the child. You can whip a horse and beat a dog because they must simply obey your will, but your child is a rational moral creature who can know God and concerning whom you have promised that you will instruct him in the fear of the Lord to the utmost of your power. As we saw last time, God declares inthat we should diligently teach our children to serve God and that we should talk of His precepts to our children when we sit down with them in our house or walk on the way. Surely when they have disobeyed these precepts we should talk about them and call their attention to the fact that they sinned against God. Let us remember that you can never frighten a child out of sin and into obedience. Only by teaching them the fear of the Lord so that they have a profound respect and reverence for Him in love can you train them in the way of righteousness and obedience.
The ability of the one parent or the other to do this when the rod is applied varies. Yet we are convinced that there is not a Christian father or mother who cannot tell his or her child that God demands obedience and that He says that the disobedient must be punished. There is not a Christian parent who cannot tell his child how God punished Israel for its sins when Israel was in the wilderness, when the Judges ruled the land or even in the times of the Kings. Scripture is full of examples and stories which can be told to the younger children in connection with their own punishment. Oh, I know, it takes time, and—well, it is easier just to apply the rod and go back to what we were doing ourselves, but please read againand see once if God does not demand it of you to take the time.
What is to be said to the child depends a great deal on the age of the child. You cannot speak of the fear of the Lord when you spank a two-year-old child. At the age where he begins to attend school, it is quite different. When, however, they get to be in their early teens and the rod becomes almost impossible to wield on. a big strapping lad, bigger and stronger than you are yourself, the punishment may assume the form of depriving them of things. God did that also in certain instances in Israel. Be kept them in the wilderness and out of Canaan for 40 years. He did not allow Moses to enter it. By the way what an example we have here! Even Moses, who had served so faithfully for 40 years, is punished by God. But to return to our line of thought, when we deprive our children of things as punishment we ought also to do so in the fear of the Lord, and then when they are of that age we can add to our instruction by explaining to them that before God they deserve a greater punishment than we could ever meet out to them even if they commit but one sin, namely, the torments of hell and that we escape only because the Lord whom we fear has inflicted it upon His Son for us. Then you teach the fear of the Lord.
Mary was sick and was in bed for a few days. Her friends asked for her to come out and play. Mother said, “No, Mary cannot come out yet A Mary gets a little better and wants to go outside, Mother still says, “No, Mary, you were sick and might get worse if you go out now A Mary asks, “Well, why did I get sick? Johnny and Ruthie and the rest did not get sick.” “Well, Mary,” mother replies, “you were not careful and you got yourself all wet and cold when you ran out in the rain last week”. Or she may say, “There was a case of Measles in school and you caught it from someone.” Mary walks away with a pout on her face considering herself to be quite an unfortunate creature for being one of those who happened to get sick.
But has Mary’s mother clone all that she could? What more could she say to Mary? She has not told her any lies, surely not intentionally at least. Surely, though, you will agree that Mary’s mother has not really satisfied her question or explained that sickness in a way that Mary’s thoughts are turned to God Who made her sick. What an opportunity her mother really had to teach her one of the fundamental truths of the fear of the Lord! Our Heidelberg Catechism devotes a whole section to the knowledge of our misery. What a wonderful opportunity Mary’s mother had to tell Mary a few things about this! She could have put clown her work for a minute and called Mary to her side and told her how wonderfully God made us in the beginning, placing us in a world where there was no sickness, pain or death. She could repeat the story of the fall to her and remind her that all the sickness, pain and death that we now have in this world are due to the fact that we sinned against God, She could tell Mary that all the sickness and pain we have in this life ought to remind us of the fact that we are sinful people and ought to remind us of how thankful we ought to be that God sent His Son to die for us that we might presently go to a better world where once more there shall be no suffering, pain and death. Let her tell Mary that she ought to be thankful to God now that He has made her almost completely well again.
It takes time to do that. Of course it does. Yet we promised that we would turn the thoughts of our children to God to the utmost of our power, and rather than to overlook these opportunities we ought to look for them. Especially since we live in these days when things are rapidly moving toward the end of time and when the devil has such an array of subtle deceptions invented and in operation whereby he is striving to tempt our children to look for the Antichrist and accept his offerings, we ought to do all we can to turn the thoughts of our children to God and to His Christ. We must teach them the fear of the Lord when we sit down with them in our houses, on the way, when we arise and when we retire at night according to. Does that not also include all these incidents in the home? Of course it does.
The same thing may be said of the times that we are on the way with our children asalso suggests. The family is out on a picnic or out for a ride, and everywhere the works of God’s hands are manifest. The fields are filled with beautiful flowers. Birds of brilliant plumage present themselves momentarily. Everything speaks of God’s praises and glory. Everything does except man who either fails to see God’s glory or else if he sees it makes no mention of these things to his children that their thoughts also may be turned to their Creator and that they may be caused to stand in awe before Him because of what they see of Him and His glory. The falling star, the song of a bird not heard before, the new flower, the thunderstorm and a host of other things which the child observes are not interpreted for him as they ought.
Parents so quickly shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh, I cannot do that. It is all right for Ministers and School teachers, but I cannot do that.” In conclusion therefore a few remarks ought to be made in regard to this. First of all we would remind you thatwas not directed to Ministers and School teachers. It was directed to uneducated—that is in the earthly sense of the word, for spiritually they were educated keepers of sheep who but recently were slaves in Egypt. Besides, with the fullness of the revelation we have in possessing both the Old and New Testaments and having had the privilege of attending catechism classes from early childhood onward and having the abundant means for growth in spiritual knowledge which is our portion today, no one ought to feel even that he has the right to try to hide behind such an excuse. If we are so unspiritual that we do not desire to put forth the effort to do these things and to seek to increase our own knowledge, the fault is not with the principle but with us. Remember that God demands the utmost of your power. If then He has given your neighbor who is a school teacher more ability than you, He is not going to hold you responsible for as much as your neighbor. The Parable of the Talents ought to teach you that. But He will demand of you the utmost of the power He has given you.
We would present one question yet to those who feel their incapability of bringing up their children in the fear of the Lord and desire to have their power increased. Have you made this a matter of prayer? Have you prayed to God to give you wisdom and even courage to speak of these things to your children? That prayer ought to begin before the child is born and ought to be uttered every morning when we arise with them, at evening when we retire with them and as frequently during the day as new problems arise. That prayer is pleasing to God, you may be sure. It pleased Him to have Solomon pray for wisdom to rule His people. It will please Him to have you pray for wisdom to bring up His children in the fear of His name. He alone can give you that wisdom, and James tells us that he that lacketh wisdom should ask of God “Who giveth liberally to all and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”