This is National Children’s Day here in Vanuatu. The Ministry of Justice and Community Services in collaboration with the Ministry of Education is focusing on the child’s development and learning at an early age. Today we want to underline the importance of children in a biblical worldview.
According to the 2009 census, Vanuatu had a population of some 235,000 people. Some forty percent were less than the age of 15. Vanuatu had about 95,000 children under the age of 15 in 2009. Today that number would be closer to 100,000. One hundred thousand children under the age of 15. That is a significant part of the population, and in a very short time, those children will be leading the nation.
How to we regard children today? How are we to treat them? How are we to prepare them to lead the world of tomorrow? What is our view of children? And what has been the view of children throughout history?
1. The View of Children in History
Children have not always been valued in the history of mankind. Going back to the Old Testament, when God sent the Israelites into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, the Ammonites were sacrificing their firstborn children to the god Molech. When God have the Israelites the Law, he said in…
Leviticus 18:21 (ESV) You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
In Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 12, God clearly forbids the Israelites from offering their children to the false gods of the Canaanites.
Deuteronomy 12:31 (ESV) You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
And yet, that is exactly what the Israelites ended up doing. With time, they began to imitate the people and the cultures around them. God sent prophets to warn them, but finally, judgment came upon Judah and God sent them into exile in Babylon because of this horrible abuse of their children:
Jeremiah 7:30-31 (ESV) “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.
Again in Jeremiah 19,
Jeremiah 19:4-5, 7 (ESV) Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind– 7 …in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth.
God’s judgment eventually fell upon his own people, and one of the reasons was that they had sinned against their own children.
Historian O. M. Bakke tells us in his book When Children Became People, that “in ancient Greece and Rome, children were considered nonpersons.” The most highly valued people in ancient Greece and Rome were freeborn adult males and those who were most similar to them. In his article, “How Christianity Invented Children,” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry says, “Various pagan authors describe children as being more like plants than human beings.” Wealthy parents left the care of their children to slaves, and in Rome, a father had the right to kill his child for any reason until he came of age.
Unwanted children were often abandoned. In his commentary on 1 Timothy 5, William Barclay comments,
In an age when the marriage bond was very lax and men and women changed their partners with bewildering rapidity, children were regarded as a misfortune. This was the great age of child exposure. When a child was born, he was brought and laid before his father’s feet. If the father stooped and lifted him, that meant that he acknowledged him and was prepared to accept responsibility for his upbringing. If the father turned and walked away, the child was quite literally thrown out, like an unwanted piece of rubbish. It often happened that such unwanted children were collected by unscrupulous people and, if girls, brought up to stock the public brothels, and, if boys, trained to be slaves or gladiators for the public games.
“Children were regarded as a misfortune.” Unfortunately, the world in which we live today, is sounding more an more like the ancient world of Greece and Rome. The marriage bond is becoming very lax. Men and women change their partners with bewildering rapidity. Many do not even bother with vows of faithfulness, and children are the ones to suffer most. Pregnancy and children are regarded as a misfortune.
Gobry also points out, “Another notorious practice in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children.” He goes on,
This is the world into which Christianity came, condemning abortion and infanticide as loudly and as early as it could.
This is the world into which Christianity came, calling attention to children and ascribing special worth to them. Church leaders meditated on Jesus’ instruction to imitate children and proposed ways that Christians should look up to and become more like them…
But really, Christianity’s invention of children — that is, its invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings — was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of God. If the God who made heaven and Earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a slave punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status.
That was indeed a revolutionary idea, and it changed our culture so much that we no longer even recognize it.
The further we move away from the biblical foundations, the more children will suffer.
2. The Biblical View of Children
2.1. Children in the Old Testament
The first promise in the Bible was the promise of a child, a child that would become the Savior of the world. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and decided that they knew best and that they would go their own way, God in his infinite mercy not only brought judgment upon them, expelling them from the Garden of Eden, he promised that the many times great grandson of Eve would crush the head of the serpent.
For centuries, young women in the godly line of Seth and Noah and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — godly young married women would hope that their child would be the promised Messiah, until the prophet Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Christ, that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. While the nations around Israel offered their little ones to false gods, the biblical view of children was that they were to be cherished, loved, protected, and cared for.
When God called Abraham it was so that Abraham would instruct his children to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just:
Genesis 18:19 (ESV) For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
There in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, God places great value on children. They are to carry the biblical values that God has revealed to his people.
We find the same esteem for children in the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi. There God addresses the sin of divorce and its effect on children. God says that he will not accept the offering or prayers of the people, though they weep and groan. The prophet Malachi continues in chapter 2 verse 14,
Malachi 2:14-16 (ESV) But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
Verse 15 says that God has made the married couple one. This is in reference to the one flesh sexual union between a husband and wife. The prophet asks the question, “Want what was the one God seeking?” And he gives the answer, “Godly offspring.”
God wants godly offspring. He wants children to be born in the context of the lifelong commitment of marriage. When a husband and wife divorce, there is a violence to the soul, a tearing apart of what God has put together. And while the husband and wife suffer, the children suffer even more and God’s goal of having godly children is often destroyed. God hates divorce.
The Old Testament is full of references to the value of children:
Psalm 127:3-5 (ESV) Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
All six verses of Psalm 128 refer to children as the blessing of the LORD:
Psalm 128:1-6 (CSB) A song of ascents. How happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways! 2 You will surely eat what your hands have worked for. You will be happy, and it will go well for you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your sons, like young olive trees around your table. 4 In this very way the man who fears the LORD will be blessed. 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion, so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life 6 and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel.
God has a special concern for children. In fact, for those who have no father, God says that he will be the Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). *** He upholds the fatherless (Psalm 146:9).
2.2. Children in the New Testament
When we come to the New Testament, we see in several places how Jesus cherished the little children.
Mark 10:13-16 (ESV) And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
The Apostle Paul modeled his ministry toward new believers after the care of parents for their children. First he compares himself to a nursing mother who nurtures her own children:
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 (CSB) Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children. 8 We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
Then he compares himself to a caring father:
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (CSB) As you know, like a father with his own children, 12 we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
Later, Paul speaks directly to fathers, telling them to be wise in instructing their children:
Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
2.3. Children in the Womb
How ironic and shameful that we would celebrate Children’s Day and celebrate a woman’s so-called right to an abortion. No one has the right to take another person’s life. No one has the right to stop a beating heart. This is the destruction of the next generation. It is the killing of the future of the nation. It is a shame for any nation to permit the killing of pre-born children.
It has been said that a mother’s womb is perhaps the most dangerous place in the world for a baby. And yet, God was placed in a womb. The Word which was God was born of the virgin Mary. “The Son of God, Jesus, is the most precious thing to God in the whole universe. And where did God place his most precious possession? In a womb.”
The womb is the place where God puts us together.
Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
It is in the womb where God forms us. It is in the womb that we are created in the image of God. From the moment of conception, from the time the sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell, you have life. And what kind of life is it? It is not animal life; it is human life. The life in the womb is a human life, created in the image of God. The psalmist David says,
Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT) You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Job 10:8, 11 (ESV) Your hands fashioned and made me… You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.
The infinite value of children begins from the moment of conception. Today, through ultrasound, we can see the baby in the womb. We see his shape, his hands, his feet, his head. We can even determine his sex. That is why the younger generation is becoming more and more pro-life. It is very clear that a child is growing in the womb.
How do we treat our children? Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa said: ”There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Ravi Zacharias: “A nation has reached its lowest ebb when our children are victimized.”
Mother Theresa: “It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
3. The Education of Children
National Theme for this year is that “Everyone should support children’s learning by enrolling all our children in to class 1 at age 6.” Let’s talk about education.
3.1. The First Four Grades
The first years are the parrot years. These are the years that children collect facts and can parrot them back to you. This is the time when children are to absorb as much information as they can about the world around them. This is the time to gather facts, learn songs, and memorize poems and Bible verses.
Too often, we put the emphasis upon self-expression. Learning to express oneself is good and necessary, but the accumulation of knowledge must be primary at this stage from age 6 to 9. Children are like sponges; they soak up knowledge. But if you squeeze the sponge dry, nothing comes out. So the sponge must first be filled. Give you children the chance to learn. Supply them with knowledge and skills that will allow them to become creative in later years as their minds develop. Fill their minds and imagination with as many pictures and stories and facts as you can.
Tell your children the stories of people, your family, your history, the history of your island, the history of Vanuatu, the history of the Pacific. Tell them about the explorers such as Captain Cook. Tell them the stories of the missionaries that brought the gospel.
Tell them the history of the world. Tell them how God created the world is six days, how he created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. Tell them how that God made everything good, but that man disobeyed God and we have lived with the consequences ever since. Show them that disobedience has consequences. Tell them that God in his grace, promised that a Savior would be born in due time to save us from our sins.
Teach them about Cain and Abel, about Noah and the worldwide flood that left fossils all over the world. Tell them about the Tower of Babel and how God confused the languages of the world so that people would be scattered all over to fill the earth. Tell them how God called Abraham and promised that that his many times great grandson would be the Savior of the world.
Tell them the stories of Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt but that God was with him so that he became the Prime Minister of Egypt and saved his family from destruction. Tell them how the nation of Israel grew during their 400 years in Egypt. Tell them that a new king, Pharaoh, tried to kill all the baby boys, but that there were brave midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who defied the evil king’s orders and spared the baby boys. Tell them about the faith of Moses’ parents who hid him from the king so that he might live and deliver his people from Egypt.
Tell them the stories of Gideon and Samson and Samuel. Tell them the stories of David and Goliath, of the three Hebrew children who were cast into the fiery furnace, and of Daniel and the lions’ den. Most of all tell them the stories of Jesus, his miracles, his death and resurrection, and the birth of the church.
This is our heritage for we all are the children of Adam and of Noah. We are all related!
God has given you children and with the children he has given you the responsibility to teach them and train them to walk in his ways.
So how do we do this? One important way is to spend time reading to your children and talking to them. Teach them to read. Show them how you love to read by reading children’s books to them.
3.2. Teaching: Transfer Your Faith
Billy Graham: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
That is what God instructs us to do. We are to teach our children:
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Your investment in your children is an investment in the nation.
Charles R. Swindoll said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”
One hundred seventy years ago, at the time of the American Civil War, Frederick Douglass was a black abolitionist and statesman. This is what he said about educating our children: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Psalm 78:1-7 (NLT) A psalm of Asaph. O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, 2 for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past– 3 stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. 4 We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. 5 For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6 so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. 7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.
The great evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, ”If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”
Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist said this about children, “When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.”
On this Children’s Day, let’s remember that what our children become, depends to a large extent on the direction that we give them.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The education of our children cannot wait. Today is the day to teach them and prepare them for tomorrow. And today is especially the day to bring them “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
 http://theweek.com/articles/551027/how-christianity-invented-children, April 23, 2015
 Barclay, William – The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon
 http://theweek.com/articles/551027/how-christianity-invented-children, April 23, 2015
 http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/children.html, 2016-07-23
 http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/children.html, 2016-07-23
Also: Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trainied Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 2004.