Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house; thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Psalm 128:3
As Reformed, and as Protestant Reformed believers, we know how important the institution of the family is to the life of the church. And we know that it is God Himself who is the Builder of such an institution. From the beginning of time, God established His covenant with His chosen people and peculiar treasure. And He is pleased to continue His covenant in the line of continued generations with believers and their seed. His covenant is an everlasting covenant—the same yesterday, today, and forever. His covenant is a covenant of grace and fellowship wherein He is our God and Father and we are His people and children.
Family. Godly family. Covenant family. It is only the Lord who can build such an unit. He establishes the institution of holy matrimony. The man and woman who marry in the Lord are united in Him and live life as one. They do not live individualistically, seeking to satisfy self with the earthly pleasures of this world. Nor do they seek to obtain the vain glory of men for some great accomplishment or work that he or she might have done. Rather, in striving to reflect the union of Christ and His Bride, the church, they live with one another, seeking to serve one another in all of their day-to-day living.
It is the desire of most—and I would like to believe all—godly young couples that it might please the Lord to bless them with children. Like Hannah of old, it is something the godly young woman (and man) prays for. Although the Lord of heaven hears and answers all the prayers of His children, we know that the prayers are not always answered in the way in which His children might desire them to be. His ways are not always our ways, but His ways are best. And His ways are perfect. He may not choose to bless all couples with the gift of children. Yet He is good.
I do not think words can begin to tell the joy of a man and his wife when it pleases God to bless their love with the precious gift of life. The newborn cry, the nursing babe, the pitter-patter of little feet and all that follows can often bring more joy than any parent could wish for. But along with it comes the awesome, yet humbling, task of being tools of the Lord. They now have the God-given calling to raise these children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They have the task of teaching little ones to fold their hands and pray. And by their godly example and instruction, it is their prayer that it might please the Lord to have their children grow in love for Him and to walk in His ways.
I have heard it said a time or two that the best gift a father can give to his children is to have them see that he loves their mother, and the best gift a mother can give is to have them see that she reverences their father. If and when it pleases the Lord to bless the godly couple with children, it is paramount the children see this in their parents. They must see it in their daily living with each other. They must hear it in the conversations that they have. Children need to see the love of Christ shining in and through the lives of their parents and in the relationship they have with each other and the Lord. For the covenant family is grounded in a marriage that is based on oneness of faith—a living faith—that the couple has and shares in the living God. This must be true of the Christian home and family. For it is only in this way that the family is truly blessed—by having husband, wife, father, mother, and children dwelling in unity with each other and the Lord.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Ps. 127:1).
Except the Lord build. And more specifically, except the Lord build the Christian home and family, we labor in vain that build it. He is the Master Builder. It is He who builds. And in His building, He is pleased to employ the use of tools—among which of utmost importance are godly parents in the home. Parenting is that very high yet humbling calling that the Lord places upon many couples in the militant church here on earth. I use the words militant church purposefully here. For, as godly parents, we will be called to do battle. We will engage in spiritual warfare. We will face opposition in our role as parents in God’s church. For in its opposition to the church and the causes of God’s kingdom the world would love nothing better than to break down and destroy the makings of the Christian home. For they—like the believer—know how vitally important a covenant family is to the life of the church. The Devil and his hosts will do all in their power to break down the stability and unity of the Christian home. They will attack the father and his role as head of the home for the ‘foolishness’ of using hard-earned money for the education of his children in the Christian day schools, for church obligations, and for many other kingdom causes. They will belittle the mother and her work, mocking her for her devotion and tempting her with something they consider to a be a little bit more appealing, such as the possibility of making a name for herself with a career (outside the home) that is just lying out there waiting for her in a world of opportunity. Along with attacking the father and belittling the mother, they will work on the children—tempting them with all the sinful pleasures this world has to offer, laying those temptations wide open before their eyes and with easy access to their hands.
How important it is then that we have godly parents in the home, devoted to God and the cause of His kingdom. Devoted to the work He has called us to do. Devoted to the raising of His children. For although we are the earthly parents, it is our Lord and heavenly Father who blesses our children with the gift of life. Our children are really His children. He gifts them to us for a short time to raise and to love. He gifts them with the calling to raise them in the nurture and admonitions of His Name. And we do. We love the children as our own (after all, it is we, as mothers, who give them birth.) And all that the world belittles and calls foolishness we as parents view as privilege. What a beautiful and high calling God has given! And as parents, we are humbled. Truly humbled. We are but weak tools in the hand of the Builder. Yet He is pleased to use us. We are weak, but He is strong. And by the guiding hand of the Master Builder, we, as parenting tools—along with other useful, yet weak means—build a beautiful and lasting covenant home, pictured well in the words of Psalter #278 (Ps. 103), “Those who His gracious covenant keep the Lord will ever bless; their children’s children shall rejoice to see His righteousness.” To be used of the Lord in such a way is very humbling indeed. And it will do us good—and keep us humble—to remember that we are but tools, and only tools, in the hand of the Master Builder. We must never confuse ourselves with the Builder or give ourselves the credit that is due only to Him. He does the building. And unless He does so, our labors are nothing but vain.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).