For many of us, the words “home” and “family” prompt thoughts of warmth, loving people, assurance, kind words, good food, fun times and open honesty. At this time of year, following the winter holidays, I am reminded of what a privilege it is to be part of a loving Christian family. There is literally nothing like it in this world!
A book on the home and family, written by Howard Hendricks, “Heaven Help the Home,” inspired the title of this devotional. It was a helpful paperback full of instructions and practical advice for the family during difficult days. The need for God’s intervention in the home has not lessened, but increased in manifold ways. Most researchers point to the breakdown of the home as a major contributor to the ills in our society today.
I love what Charles Swindoll wrote about the family. “Home is where life makes up its mind. It is there—with fellow family members—we hammer out our convictions on the anvil of relationships. It is there we cultivate the valuable things in life, like attitudes, memories, beliefs and most of all, character.” Nothing can take the place of God’s purpose for the home.
God’s Word employs several beautiful metaphors for children and the family that are both enlightening and instructive. In Psalm 128 He reminds us of His blessings on the homes of God-fearing people. The Psalmist wrote: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion, and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Indeed, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!” (verses 3-6). Here the Lord pictured the wife as a fruitful vine, and the children as little olive plants situated around the table. Both the grape vine and the olive plant were fruitful, helpful, life enriching and very valuable. In these verses the Lord wants us to understand that wives and children are precious blessings to be treasured and cherished. Don’t you love to gather around the table and hold hands as a family as you offer prayers of thanksgiving to the God who made it all possible?
Another Bible passage that pictures children in the home is found in Psalm 127:3-5, where it reads, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Did you notice how God pictures children? Through the psalmist Solomon, God says a child is “a gift,” “fruit” and “a reward.” Offspring are also compared to “arrows” and the man is “blessed,” whose “quiver” is full of them. These divine descriptions of children suggest their great potential. Gifts are enjoyable, fruit is part of a harvest and a reward is a great prize. Also, like arrows, children can and should be equipped and dispatched to duties and places far beyond the reach of their parents, as they are released from the quiver.
Several years ago, we set aside six Sunday nights, to show a family film series in our church. The individual lessons are long forgotten, but the most memorable thing about, “Turn Your Heart Toward Home,” was the introduction. Every week the film began the same way. The music and words would sound as the camera showed a young soldier riding and then stepping down from a bus, onto a gravel road. As he slung his duffle bag over his shoulder and walked up to the old farmhouse, his mother spied him through the front window, dropped what she was doing and ran to meet him. The boy’s father and younger sister also ran to embrace their long-absent son and brother. The response of the congregation was amazing. As the introduction opened, the same scene unfolded, and our people responded in the same way—with shedding of tears. There would not be a dry eye in the church house! The fact is, my eyes are moist now as I remember the scene and type this.
Why is that? It happened because in the entire world, in every generation, there is no institution so precious, no group so valuable, no organization as irreplaceable as the family. Charles Colson said: “Ordained by God as the basic unit of human organization, the family is the first school of human instruction. Parents take small, self-centered monsters, who spend much of their time screaming defiantly and hurling peas on the carpet, and teach them to share, to wait their turn, to respect others’ property. These lessons translate into respect for others, self-restraint, obedience to law—in short, into the virtues of individual character that are vital to a society’s survival.”
The value of children, those little olive plants around your table are enormous. The potential of children, those little arrows from your quiver, aimed and dispensed into the future, is immense. Our hopes depend upon them. Every church had better be intentional about instructing parents, assisting families and teaching children. Henry Drummond, who lived a century ago, wrote, “The family circle is the supreme conductor of Christianity,” and that is exactly true! The genuine Christian family is a billboard reflecting the beauty and effect of the gospel.