In this article I want to consider one more reason why the Christian home is the ideal institution that God created for the raising of covenant children. Remember that I speak of that which is ideal. No home achieves that ideal. The best home in this world of sin is still imperfect. But the ideal is what God Himself has created the covenant home to be. We must strive after this ideal, conscious of the fact that we do this only through the exercise of our faith and earnest prayer.
The foundational truth of the Christian home is the truth of God’s everlasting covenant of grace. According to the truth of God’s covenant of grace, He is pleased to gather His people in the line of the continued generations of believers. In this series of articles, we have considered the many implications of this blessed truth. Most of these have been about the raising of children in the covenant home. Besides the children in the covenant family, there are also parents and grandparents and, if the Lord gives long life on earth, great-grandparents. Each member of the covenant family has his place and calling in the covenant home.
When the spiritual reality of the covenant is known and truly experienced, there is great blessing in the covenant home. God is known there. His truth binds the generations of the covenant together in a blessed bond that the world does not and even cannot know. The blessed reality of the covenant is life and friendship and fellowship with God. Even to the end of their earthly pilgrimage aged saints have a place of great significance and a calling in this covenant home. They have the honor of having raised their children in the fear of the Lord. When these children with grace and humility in their hearts receive the covenant instruction of their parents, they are themselves blessed with the favor of God upon them. They arise with thankfulness to God to call their parents blessed. Great honor is given to true covenant parents. Because God preserves His truth in the covenant family, its blessing is known and remains strong from generation to generation.
There are also many trials and burdens and sorrows that we bear in our life in the world. Yet there is great comfort and hope and joy in the covenant home in the midst of all of these. The Lord, our faithful covenant God, sustains us. Each member of the covenant family has his calling to encourage and strengthen the others.
In describing the blessedness of the home of the God-fearing, the psalmist has this to say: “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth” (Ps. 127:3). According to the figure used by the psalmist, God blesses us with children in the days of our youth. In the days of our youth the Lord gives us the amazing power to bring forth children and the strength to raise them from day to day. And indeed there is much strength and wisdom required for this task. When our God-given children grow to adulthood, they are our protection from the enemy. When we begin to lose our strength, our children and grandchildren support us. Hopefully, we have been wise enough during our life in managing our finances so as not to burden our children for financial support. In the case when parents have suffered loss and been reduced to poverty, in the providence of God, aged saints are left without the necessary means to support themselves. Then children must also care for their aged parents financially, and do so without grudging. Those who do not do this are judged by Paul to have denied the faith and to be worse than infidels (see I Tim. 5:8).
But especially must our children give spiritual, psychological, and emotional support to their parents and grandparents in later life. The days of old age for most are some of the most difficult of their earthly life. For many aged saints, there comes a time when they cannot care for themselves. Our children bless us in our families with covenantal joy and encouragement. The psalmist in Psalm 127 speaks of the fact that we need not be afraid of “enemies in the gate.” We are surrounded and protected by our children and grandchildren. What a blessing of God this is for the covenant family!
In Psalm 128 the inspired psalmist describes the blessedness of the God-fearing man. The blessing of God to the home of the God-fearing man is not the enjoyment of great riches or glory in this world. These are in themselves vanity, when men set their hearts on them and when we do not fear God and He does not bless us. That the love of money is the root of all evil is shown in the world when children who receive an inheritance from their parents are often embroiled in bitter strife over how this money is divided among them. They resent it when parents decide to give all or some of the left-over resources to other causes.
The older we get in life, the less attraction the things of the world have for us. We are not like the aged of the world, often seen in gambling houses still trying to gain some unexpected riches they will not even live long enough to enjoy. God teaches us that we brought nothing into this world and that it is sure that we can bring nothing out.
The blessing of God on the God-fearing man is that he sees his children’s children and peace upon the Israel of God. There is a great wonder of grace in Reformed churches where the truth of God’s covenant is known and maintained. In these churches one often sees three or more generations worshiping together and confessing together the unchanging truth of God’s wonderful salvation in Jesus Christ. Apostasy from this truth of the covenant often results in young people leaving the church already in their youth. Churches where there is such apostasy have mostly grey-headed members. The loss of the covenant youth from the church is the cause of great sorrow and anguish for aged saints who themselves have continued in the fear of the Lord. This is especially the case when God’s judgment comes on those who have passed their days in covetousness, careless about spiritual things, having little concern for the church. Their worldly lifestyle brings the chastening hand of God upon them in days of old age. Some realize this only after it is too late to do anything about it. The joy and strength of Israel is gone from many Reformed churches because of the awful apostasy and worldliness of their members.
Children who have been instructed in the truth of God and who grow up to walk in this truth are the great joy of their parents. John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth” (III John 4). All the members of the covenant home are by grace partakers of this joy, not the least of them the aged generation in the church.
In Reformed churches where the truth of God’s covenant is maintained and known, God gives the great blessing not only of the loving care of parents for their God-given covenant children but also the joyful blessing of children caring for the aged generation among them, giving to them the honor due to them in their old age. Properly instructed covenant children show their love for God and thankfulness to Him for the heritage of the covenant they have received through their godly parents and grandparents.
The contrast to all of this is one of the greatest evils of this world. This is the evil of children who, when they are independent and self-sufficient later in life, despise their parents and rebel against them, neglecting all responsibility of caring for them. These children forsake the covenant traditions of their parents and become totally worldly and ungodly. Even in nominally Christian America one comes across the sad and tragic situations where the aged are put away in rest homes, neglected and forgotten. Children occupy themselves in the pursuit of their own selfish ambitions and make themselves too busy to care for aged parents and grandparents. They have no time to visit them and forget the debt of thankfulness they owe to their parents for the many labors and sacrifices. They have no honor and respect for the aged generation. The busier and more complicated and fast-paced life in modern society becomes, the greater is often the desire to be rid of the responsibility and burden of caring for the aged. I know this from my experience as a pastor. I have visited too many senior saints of God languishing on beds of illness with no one who cares enough for them to visit them regularly and encourage them in all the trials and afflictions of old age. These often speak of the pain and anguish and loneliness they suffer. Few other sorrows are as great.
When God maintains the reality of the covenant among us from generation to generation, we enjoy a great reward in the later years of our life. In the covenant home children must be taught their responsibility to care for and to honor to their parents. They must be inspired by the love and fear of the Lord in their hearts to give the honor and respect that is due to their parents.
In the sphere of the covenant by the grace of God aged saints are an example in their families and in the church. Scripture exhorts aged men and aged women to instruct the younger generations in the home and family (see Tit. 2:1-5). At times old age can make one feel useless and without purpose in life. But aged saints of God who are active in their covenant calling even to the end of their life, and who love the church that they are part of, are given purpose and meaning in life, which by the grace of God is profoundly meaningful and blessed.
A psalm that I have often used in connection with visiting elderly saints has this beautiful prayer of an elderly saint: “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come” (Ps. 71:17, 18). For those who are filled with the grace and wisdom of God there cannot possibly be a more significant and blessed purpose in life than the one expressed in the prayer of this aged saint of God.
We who know and love the covenant of God consider it a most significant and powerful example to see godly aged saints among us. We see these members revealing their love and devotion to God and their steadfastness in the truth. We witness the sure hope of glory they have. When God finally takes them from us to glory, we have great comfort concerning them.
In the covenant and church of God where that covenant is known, aged saints of God are the source of great encouragement and inspiration. We can sometimes make lame excuses for not being in church on a given Lord’s Day or for attending only one worship service. Then we are put to shame by the aged members of the church who come in with walkers and in wheelchairs. In the providence of the Lord, only very great affliction would keep them from the house of God and the great desire for hearing His Word. No earthly career of young men and women that gives worldly glory and riches and occupies all of their time and interest can compare to the blessedness of such aged saints. It is a vain thing to rise up early and sleep late only to build an earthly house and great city. These shall all pass away in the judgment of God.
This, then, is a blessing of God’s covenant of grace among us in our generations. May the Lord keep us faithful to our calling whether we are children or aged saints of God. Let us pray earnestly that this blessing of God may never be taken away from us because of apostasy.