Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Responsibilities of Godly Parents

Children are a heritage from the Lord. They are a reward from the Lord.
Ps 127:3 Behold, children [are] a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb [is] a reward.
Such a great heritage from God are given to parents as a reward comes with great responsibilities.
Luke 11:11-13 “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if [he asks] for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Responsibilities of parents include taking good care of their children. Christian and pagan likewise knew them and follow them as Jesus mentioned. But here, we will focus on what it means to be a godly parents.

Unborn and Infants

Ezek 16:20,45 “Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. [Were] your [acts] of harlotry a small matter, ... “You [are] your mother’s daughter, loathing husband and children; and you [are] the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children; your mother [was] a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 
Jer 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
When God symbolically represented Israel as a women during the last days of the kingdom of Judah, He mentioned how they loathed Him by worshiping other gods and His inheritance, the children by sacrificing to other gods to be devoured. Like the ancient Israelite people, many mothers loath their own children even today. Instead of sacrifice they call it abortion and treat them like flesh and not human. Yet, God knew everyone and has a plan for them before they are even born.
Isa 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.
Here, God is comparing His characteristics with a different mother who never forgets her nursing child and have compassion on her children. This mother is not like some modern mothers who forget their infants in cars. Hence, one of the important responsibility for a parent, especially for a mother towards a nursing child, is to care for and not forget her child, also to have compassion towards her child and not to abort them.

Childhood

Deut 8:5 “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, [so] the LORD your God chastens you.
Heb 12:7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
Prov 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;
Prov 4:1 Hear, [my] children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding;
The father has an important role of giving instructions and chastening the child. The mother has important role of putting rules for the child.
Prov 13:24 He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Every father who does not chastens hates his child.
Prov 22:15 Foolishness [is] bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
Prov 29:15 The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left [to himself] brings shame to his mother.
Today we live in a world where chastening is seen as abuse and rules for child are seen as fascism. Hence, one of the important role for a father is to chasten and instruct the child while the mother puts rules for the child.

Youth

Prov 19:18 Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.
It is very important to understand that chastening and disciplining cannot be done forever. A parent cannot smack a child who has grown more than the parent's shoulders. The level of chastening also reduces significantly because the child had grown up. Usually, restricting access or chastening at this point will backfire and hard. 
Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart [is] evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. 
Eccl 11:10 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth [are] vanity.
The imagination of youth is evil. The preacher in Ecclesiastes advises the youth to put away evil from flesh because they are vanity. 
Prov 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Hence, chastening and training must be done while there is hope, when the child is young. If the child is grown with chastening and training in the way of the Lord, then the child will not leave them when s/he grows up. These days, a new unchastened generation are being raised who boast on their shame in foolishness and take pride of it mocking Paul's instructions of wearing modest apparel.
1Tim 2:9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,
We have mothers who don't chasten kids but encourage to be shameful and sinful.
1Sam 2:22-25 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For [it is] not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’s people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them. ... 27 Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house?
God expects parents to warn youth and even adult children who sin against God. However, as we see in the case of Eli's sons, it is hard for youth and grown ups to endure chastening from older parents. It is important to note, if we do not properly chasten and train our children to bring them into the way of the Lord, God will question the parents, just as He questioned Eli.

Practical Suggestions

Always chose a spouse who is a believer in Christ. This is the first step is becoming a godly parents. Chastening and training in the ways of the Lord is not about having strict rules for children while having all temptations within the house. In the world filled with sin, even the news teach wrong and abominable things to kids. Here are some practical tips actively used by us to guard children from pollution of the world.
  • Disconnect / restrict TV: Programs are always designed to make sure you watch again, wasting valuable God given time in something useless. Parents need to make sure TV is not a hurdle for children to obedience to God.  i.e., things that are indirectly taught in them. If an immoral lifestyle is shown in TV many times, it becomes normal for the person who is watching it. Are you teaching children God's ways or your TV is teaching children the devil's ways? Instead of TV connection, kids can be given freedom to play any of christian cartoons in DVD/CDs/external HDD. This way, parents know exactly what they watch and they grow in the knowledge of God. Some of the good cartoons that can recommended are,
    • Veggie Tales
    • Superbook
    • Theo Presents - You can purchase online and download as mp4 file. Excellent videos teaching theology for kids using a Tom and Jerry style cartoons.
    • (and many more)
  • Offline Wiki: Children don't need to browse and search in a place filled with sin and temptations. It is understandable that kids may require to do research on the internet for their studies. To overcome this, you can use an offline Wikipedia called kiwix.org. It also has a school version where Wikipedia pages are hand-picked and verified.
  • Home Internet Security is from OpenDNS to change the DNS servers in your router instead of the ISP provided. This will block most of the known offensive websites on any device using the internet connection from home. You can also configure several categories to get blocked depending on the age of children. 
  • K9 Web Protection is a free Internet filter and parental control software for home Windows or Mac computer. This installs on the computer and have several categories to block. Time restrictions can also be enforced. K9 also allows parents to monitor the browsing behavior rather than blocking websites. You can know more about it at K9 Web Protection website.
  • Do not leave kids alone: It important to remember, a child left to itself brings shame (Prov 29:15). However, modern parents are after money and work, leaving children to themselves having no idea of their whereabouts who do things shameful to speak about. Every family situation is different but parents need to decide how to make sure their kids are not left alone to their own.
  • Family Prayer: It is important to do family prayer everyday. Children must be asked to read the the Bible and explain what they learnt. This cultivates the habit of reading and meditating the Bible in children.

Conclusion

The responsibilities for a new parent, especially for a mother towards a nursing child, is to care for and not forget her child, also to have compassion towards her child and not to abort them. When the child grows, the father has an important role in chastening and instructing the child while the mother puts rules for the child. Chastening and disciplining cannot be done forever. God expects parents to warn their youth and even if their children had grown up as adults to depart from sins.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bible Study: Ezekiel 17 - A Riddle from God

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.
Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:
The seventeenth chapter of Ezekiel is about God declaring the iniquity of the house of Israel who despised the oath and broke the covenant.

The Riddle

Ezek 17:1-10 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, pose a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “A great eagle with large wings and long pinions, Full of feathers of various colors, Came to Lebanon And took from the cedar the highest branch. He cropped off its topmost young twig And carried it to a land of trade; He set it in a city of merchants. Then he took some of the seed of the land And planted it in a fertile field; He placed [it] by abundant waters [And] set it like a willow tree. And it grew and became a spreading vine of low stature; Its branches turned toward him, But its roots were under it. So it became a vine, Brought forth branches, And put forth shoots. But there was another great eagle with large wings and many feathers; And behold, this vine bent its roots toward him, And stretched its branches toward him, From the garden terrace where it had been planted, That he might water it. It was planted in good soil by many waters, To bring forth branches, bear fruit, [And] become a majestic vine.” Say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots, Cut off its fruit, And leave it to wither? All of its spring leaves will wither, And no great power or many people Will be needed to pluck it up by its roots. Behold, [it is] planted, Will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind touches it? It will wither in the garden terrace where it grew.”
Instead of the word riddle, Septuagint uses tale. God is asking Ezekiel to pose a riddle or tell a tale and relate it to what the house of Israel had done, so that they can understand their rebellion and rejection of God's grace and mercy shown even in their punishment.
Heb 10:29-30 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”
In the tale which God said, we can clearly see the great eagle with large wings and long pinions planned the tender twig and seed of the land in a fertile field by abundant waters. It grew and became a majestic vine. But what if the vine is loyal to another eagle? This is similar to Ezekiel 16, where God had blessed Jerusalem and gave her everything and succeeded it to royalty but it trusted in it's own beauty and rejected her Husband. The same is true for many nations even today. God had blessed many nations with abundance but they are trusting in their own. They reject the Savior who gave them all and bring the wrath of God on themselves.

Meaning of the Riddle

Ezek 17:11-18 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Say now to the rebellious house: ‘Do you not know what these [things mean?]’ Tell [them,] ‘Indeed the king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its king and princes, and led them with him to Babylon. ‘And he took the king’s offspring, made a covenant with him, and put him under oath. He also took away the mighty of the land, ‘that the kingdom might be brought low and not lift itself up, [but] that by keeping his covenant it might stand. ‘But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and many people. Will he prosper? Will he who does such [things] escape? Can he break a covenant and still be delivered? ‘[As] I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘surely in the place [where] the king [dwells] who made him king, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke–with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. ‘Nor will Pharaoh with [his] mighty army and great company do anything in the war, when they heap up a siege mound and build a wall to cut off many persons. ‘Since he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, and in fact gave his hand and still did all these [things,] he shall not escape.’
God is explaining the riddle or tale through Ezekiel. The great eagle is the king of Babylon. The young twig represents the king and princes of Judah and the king's offspring is planted in good soil. But the king's offspring sent ambassadors to Egypt who is the another great eagle. Because the king of Judah despised the oath by breaking the covenant, he shall not escape.

We have a new covenant through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How much worse will it be for anyone who despises the oath which He made by sacrificing His own life as an atonement and breaking New Covenant?

The Lord's Anger

Ezek 17:19-21 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “[As] I live, surely My oath which he despised, and My covenant which he broke, I will recompense on his own head. “I will spread My net over him, and he shall be taken in My snare. I will bring him to Babylon and try him there for the treason which he committed against Me. All his fugitives with all his troops shall fall by the sword, and those who remain shall be scattered to every wind; and you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken.”
If we carefully read the response from God, He is using the same to speak two different things. The oath and the covenant which the house of Israel made with the king of Babylon, is from God. It also represents the house of Israel despised the oath and broke the covenant which He made with them in mount Sinai. God will kill the king of Judah and his troops by sword and scatter all those who remain.

Future Kingdom of God

Ezek 17:22-24 Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will take also [one] of the highest branches of the high cedar and set [it] out. I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and will plant [it] on a high and prominent mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it; and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort; in the shadow of its branches they will dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the LORD, have spoken and have done [it.]”
God is merciful and gracious. He did not completely destroy Israel but speaks of a future hope. He takes the topmost of it's young twigs and plant it on a high an prominent mountain where it will bring forth boughs and bear fruit and be a majestic cedar. Under it, all the birds will dwell.
Luke 13:18-19 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
Phil 2:5-11 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We see a similar description used by Jesus Christ to represent His kingdom. God also highly exalted Jesus Christ who took the form of a bond servant to have the name which is above every name that at His name, all knee should bow. We clearly see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel by Jesus Christ.