Mr. and Mrs. Pastoor are members of the Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan, where Howard also serves as elder. They have been married for 37 years.
God-fearing parents love their children and rejoice when they walk in the truth, marry in the Lord, and bring their children up in His fear. They rejoice when the marriages of their children are built upon the Rock, Jesus Christ; when they live together in love, unity, and peace and reflect the beautiful and mysterious marriage of Christ and His bride, the church. They rejoice, because they know in their hearts and souls that this is God’s gracious work and confess “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” ().
God builds this house through the institution of marriage and through covenant parents who strive to keep their baptism vow to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord “to the utmost of their power.”
Marriage is so significant and vital for the family and church that those who enter into this covenant must be thoroughly prepared and trained. This awesome responsibility and calling rests first of all on the parents. Preparation for the marriage covenant begins when believing parents earnestly pray for godly seed before they are conceived and born, knowing that such children are gracious gifts and are an heritage of the Lord. These children, who are sanctified in Christ, must learn the fear of the Lord, which must be thoroughly ingrained into the very fiber of their being.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (). The world and reprobate mind considers this truth archaic, judgmental, narrow, and repulsive, but the Reformed parent and believer embrace it. By walking this narrow way with our children, faithfully teaching and preparing our children for life, especially married life, we please God. Thus, when our children learn the fear of the Lord, they know He is the Almighty and Awesome One who in His mercy and grace has plucked them out of the bondage of sin, judgment, and hell, and has brought them into His covenant relationship of friendship and love through the work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they praise and thank Him, and willingly and joyfully serve Him.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (). Surely our sons and daughters who have the beginning of wisdom will be faithful husbands and wives, and will love, hate, serve, forgive, trust and obey—biblically—in their lives and marriages. These activities of faith must be taught and demonstrated to our children by us, the parents, even as the carpenter’s apprentice must be taught how to build a house. The blueprint for the house is the Scriptures.
To love is to build the house
God, the Builder of the city which has foundations, is love (; ). Let us, therefore, teach our sons and daughters to “put on charity which is the bond of perfectness” ( ). The fruit of this love is mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering ( ).
Children who are taught the essence of love, rooted in their relationship with God in Christ, know also that the marriage bond is unbreakable in this life. To know and understand this is absolutely vital; “until death do us part.” Love is not mere emotions, feelings, and passions that blow like the wind; rather love is like super-glue and hardened steel bolts that bind for life. This understanding and knowledge brings real commitment and gravity to those ready to marry.
The faithful husband nourishes and cherishes his wife as the Lord loves His church and sacrificially gives Himself to love and provide for her (). The faithful wife and mother loves, and out of that love, gives herself and her all to her husband and children. “Every wise woman buildeth her house” ( ).
The house without love is an inhospitable and uninhabitable abode, a stone-cold, barren house without a furnace. Let us, therefore, teach our sons and daughters to build their house warmed by the fervent love of God.
To hate evil is to build the house
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (). Sin and evil destroy and tear down the house. They try to break the bond of love, ruining and scarring many marriages. May we, as parents, live antithetically, hating and eschewing all evil as the very venom of the old serpent, that vile and foul demon from the abyss. May we also teach our children to hate evil through the rod of correction. They must learn at an early age that pain and suffering are a consequence of sin and, therefore, they must run from it.
Through chastening and discipline our children learn to rule over their own spirit and discipline their mind. This is vital in all relationships, especially marriage. They must be taught to bite their tongue, not lash out in a fury of anger, and to do all things in moderation. “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down without a wall” (). May our sons and daughters learn to build their homes by hating evil and fighting against the temptations of Satan, the world, and their old man of sin.
To serve God is to build the house
Jesus Christ was the Servant of all servants and perfectly fulfilled the will of His Father. Let us teach our children to put on the mind of Christ and follow the example of Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ (). Servants, or slaves, are not their own but belong to their master; we and our children belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1).
As parents, through word and deed, we are called to teach our sons and daughters to “wash each other’s feet” in marriage, family, and church. Our lives must be a living sacrifice to God our King. The sin of selfishness must be dealt with, for it will bring much contention and misery in the marriage and house. Together, with common goal and purpose, husband and wife must walk together. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (). May our sons and daughters learn to build the house by serving Christ and His kingdom together.
To repent and to forgive is to build the house
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (). Sin is in the homes and marriages of all believers—all of them. This humbles us deeply. The remedy is repentance and forgiveness through the cross of Calvary, which brings forth the blessed fruit of healing, restoration, and joy.
“Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another that ye may be healed” (). Covenant parents must demonstrate repentance and forgiveness in their own lives and marriages so their sons and daughters learn by word and deed, and then also emulate this activity of faith. In this way the confession of David in Psalm 51 becomes their confession. Thus they are equipped to put away all bitterness, wrath, and malice, and be tenderhearted and longsuffering in their lives and marriages, because God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven them ( ). May our sons and daughters be taught to build and maintain their homes through repentance and forgiveness so that the joy that sin takes away may be restored.
To trust and know God is to build the house
“They that know thy name will put their trust in thee…” (). We know God by His Word, which is faithful and true. Our sons and daughters must be thoroughly instructed in the Word so they may know God’s beauty, character, and attributes. They will know Him to be their awesome God for He is worthy of their trust and faith. Faith and trust are brothers. Faith gives strength and resolve to press on. Trust brings peace and contentment. Both are sorely needed in the home and marriage.
On family visitation, I have asked young children if they trust their dad to give them food and shelter for tomorrow. Incredulously, they respond, “Of course!” This answer opens the door to ask the next question, “Why do you believe that he will do that?” They always answer, “Because I know my dad….” For of such is the kingdom of heaven!
Our sons and daughters who have been taught that God is worthy of their trust, because they know Him personally, are prepared for the responsibilities and trials of life, especially married life, and will experience peace and contentment in their home.
To obey God is to build a house that is blessed, rich, strong, and thankful
God’s people desire and long for His favor and blessing, especially upon their children and grandchildren. They have experienced God’s blessings in the way of obedience; therefore, they teach their children to walk in this way, to keep His commandments and to love His Word. “Blessed are they that keep my ways” (). This blessed house is also a fabulously rich house where dwells a treasure far greater than silver and gold. “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich” ( ).
The way of the Lord, keeping the commandments of the Lord, makes the house strong; it is like wood and steel beams that give our physical dwellings structural integrity. “The way of the Lord gives strength to the upright” (). The spiritual strength given, then, empowers our sons and daughters to be unspotted, chaste, and pure, sparing them from the spiritual wounds caused by sexual sins.
There may be times when our children do fall into sin, even great sin; then they must be held accountable. God in His sovereign mercy and grace will use their sin as the rod of correction to chasten them with a fiery trial. Even as old scaffolding is discarded after the building is complete, so too the sin, once used by God to correct and save, is thrown into the sea of forgetfulness.
In the blessed way of obedience, believing parents express their thankfulness and present themselves as a living sacrifice to their heavenly Father. Therefore, through word and deed, may our children be taught to obey as unto the Lord so they may be equipped to build a blessed, rich, strong, and thankful house.
Let us humbly pray that God continues to use weakest means to fulfill His will and give wisdom and grace to covenant parents to prepare covenant children for a blessed and God-honoring married life. “Establish thou the work of our hands upon us: yea, the work of our hands establish thou it” (b).