Parenting: Sacrifice, Trust, and Joy
As TCC continues its parenting sermon series, it’s got me thinking a lot about how the Scriptures present godly parenting. I have no kids and thus no emotional investment in what the Bible has to say about parenting, so it’s easy for me to say: Parents, your kids are not yours!
I asked Aaron Leeds, our worship pastor, if it was a good idea for me to write this blog, since I have no experience as a parent. And he pointed out that it’s often hard for people who are parents to see biblical truth about parenting, because they have so much of their heart caught up in their children. That emotional investment isn’t always a bad thing, but it can sometimes take a fresh voice who’s outside the situation looking in to shed light on God’s truth. So, while I am no expert on parenting, maybe I can share something I have seen in God’s word!
Parenting implies possession. It’s a fact of nature. We say things like “He’s my child,” or “she’s my legacy.” Parents go through periods of life where they are, at every moment, completely responsible for their children in, literally, life or death scenarios. Think about what goes through a mother’s mind when she finds her two year old fishing for something out of the storm drain in the midst of heavy traffic. Or what goes through a father’s mind when his newborn daughter is sleeping suspiciously soundly (there comes a time when a good night’s sleep is worrisome). There is a protection instinct that kicks in that builds such a bond with the child, that they are truly your child. So what does it mean for “your” child to also be God’s child? And how do we trust God with our children?
There are two stories in the book of Samuel (which is split into 1 and 2 Samuel in our bibles, but was originally one book) that have contrasting but equally moving narratives of people trusting their children to Yahweh, the Lord, the true Father.
The first is Hannah and Samuel. Hannah was barren and had no children, and “the Lord closed her womb,” (1 Sam. 1:5). Hannah desperately wanted a child, and was even mocked by her husband’s other wife (the polygyny is one for a different blog post!) for failing to have children. So she wept and refused to eat and was deeply sad for years, longing for a son.
So, she went with her husband to worship Yahweh, the Lord, and she bowed and made a vow, saying that if the Lord will give her a son, she will give him to be Yahweh’s servant, to be holy and dedicated to the Lord.
To Hannah’s joy, God granted her request, and gave her a son named Samuel. So she nursed him and cared for him until he was weaned, and then gave her to the service of the Lord, under the prophet Eli’s supervision. As she gives up her son, she stops and falls to her knees worshipping, and the first thing out of her mouth as she gives away her only child is “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my strength is lifted in the Lord.” Total sacrifice, total trust, and total joy. Losing a son is no loss at all for Hannah, because she has lost him into the hands of a holy, loving, and righteous Father.
The second story comes from the second half of the book of Samuel, 2 Samuel chapter 12. David’s wife Bathsheba was pregnant (check out chapter 11 for the reality TV style conception story!) and David had a son. David had sinned against God and against Bathsheba and Uriah, Bathsheba’s first husband, and took advantage of his power over Bathsheba for lustful purposes, and so God, as a consequence for David’s sin, had given the child over to sickness, and he was at the point of death.
David was overcome with guilt and a heavy heart, so he fasted, prayed, and begged God to spare his son. After seven days, the baby died. In Hebrew culture, this is one day before the child would be circumcised, named, and officially recognized as part of the family. And God took his life.
When David learned that the child was dead, he went straight to the house of the Lord to worship. He feasted and rejoiced in the Lord, after losing his son. When asked why he worshipped in this way, he said “Now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” Total sacrifice, total trust, and total joy. Though he lost his child, he knows he lost him into the hands of the Lord, and he is safe there.
Hannah prayed that, though childless, she would bear a child. David prayed that, though undeserving, he would keep the child he already had.