When I was a child of 5 years old my father gave me a small Bible, which I still have to this day. Inside it he inscribed my name and the date, 22 December 1967. I have recently asked him why he chose this date, as curiously it is days after my birthday but before Christmas. He cannot recall why, so there is a mystery!
Inside this dear little copy of mine are several coloured plates, some depicting children. Long before I could read I remember gazing long at those pictures. The children seemed just children to me, although today they are obviously of a different ethnicity and wear ancient robes. This, as a child, I never saw but merely that they and I had a common bond. Also, those children in the Bible included me; I had no adult concept at all of the stories within, except those I heard growing up at Infant and Primary school. I listened and unconsciously remembered; as generation from generation always has over long centuries before.
With the Old Testament I learnt of Moses, a little baby in a basket floating down the river and rescued by a Princess. He became God’s mighty leader who was a hero. I learnt of Samuel whose mummy made him clothes but he lived at “church”. Who on hearing his name went running to answer the “Vicar”, but was sent back to bed! Then was told God was calling him with a special message. He grew up to be God’s voice, how extraordinary! Then of course there was Joseph who was his daddy’s favourite and who was given an amazing multi-coloured coat. He suffered from his angry brother’s jealousy who sold him as a slave, and yet God raised him up to save God’s people from starving to be very important to the King of Egypt and was eventually to be reconciled to his family once more. All were children with amazing destinies.
Fast forward to the New Testament, and I learnt of a little baby born in a stable whose mummy and daddy were Mary and Joseph. They had a donkey, not a car! This little baby was Jesus, God’s beloved Son. I heard much about this baby Jesus. I had his picture in my little Bible. This picture, and all the others, grew in my mind as I heard of their adventures and lives as they grew up. Jesus however was very different and He grew up and loved all children (Matthew 19:13-15).
“Jesus loves me, this I know because my Bible tells me so!”
These words I learnt at nursery school, and come from a hymnal by Anna Bartlett-Warner (1820-1915), and the music by William Batchelder Bradbury (1816-1868).
Later on as I grew up Iwas able to understand more, I came to read in the Bible of children raised from the dead by Elijah and also by Jesus. Yet, I also learned of children murdered (Matthew 2:16-18), a little girl stolen and taken captive as a slave (2 Kings 5).
I read of twins who fought before they were born and who stole and deceived. Of how one son was favoured over another; from Esau and Jacob, to Isaac and Ishmael. Of a daughter who was raped.
Life in all its aspects both good and evil, we are not to be shielded from the truth of what real life is like. Their lives and destinies played out and recorded for all to read within the Bible. God tells it as it is when we don’t follow Him. Those who break God’s rules and those who suffer from consequences, (chosen or imposed) have free will.
How do we deal with all this?
In the second book of the Bible (Exodus 20:12) we are commanded by God to “Honour your father and mother”. However because we are fallen and have sinful natures, we fail time and again to live as God intended. People hurt others (consciously or not) we simply cannot help ourselves out of the mess we fell into.
As with those in the Bible, their lives and destinies were preordained as ours are today. Psalm 139:16 explains for us, “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God knows the mess were in and that is why He sent us His Son, Jesus the Messiah. In an amazing turn of fate for humanity, our mess can be delt with simply by believing in Jesus. Who He is and that He has rescued us because of His self-sacrificial death and, most importantly, His resurrection!
His resurrection changed everything, we all will die a physical death one way or another, but we who belong to Jesus are promised life eternal. And, God keeps His promises! Moreover, we are claimed as His children and filled with His Spirit. This “down payment” seals us forever. We are marked as His children. How amazing!
So, I guess the answer is that we don’t “deal with all this” alone.
Today, children are born into spiritual poverty, never has a generation had so much materially and yet are spiritually barren, lost. Whether we are parents or not we most likely have nieces, nephews, know friends children, or god children. Children are a gift of God, and we too are all His children (3 John 1:4). We are as family to help each other, especially as St. James writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27).
“How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom 10:14).
So, let us continue to tell the children so that His word may never depart from them, giving a Bible to a child so that they may wonder, feel included and learn of His all inclusive love for them. If we do not, today’s children will grow up in the world’s grip. With access to God’s living Word lives are transformed and healed. The Spirit blows; may He inspire a godly generation to grow up with the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy One. May this generation come to fulfil their God given destinies and dreams, may they be able to say with certainty of changed hearts, “I know my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25).