THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
'And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass: how shall we order the child? and what shall we do unto him ?'— Judg. xiii. 12.
AN angel of the Lord had appeared to Manoah's wife, to predict the birth of a child, who should be a Nazarite unto God from his birth, and a deliverer of God's people. The first feeling of Manoah, on receiving the tidings from his wife, was that, to train such a God-given child for God's service, God-given grace would be needed; he therefore entreated the Lord, and said, 1O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again to us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.' And when in answer to his prayer the angel came again, his one petition was,'How shall we order the child? and what shall we do unto him?' Let us consider the prayer, the answer, and the attendant blessings,
1. Mark the deep sense of responsibility ami unfitness for the holy work of training a child as a Nazarite unto God. The angel had already given Manoah's wife the needful instruction; but Manoah is so deeply impressed with the holiness of their calling as parents of this child, that he must needs ask for the angel to come again and teach them. What a contrast to the thoughtless self-confidence with which, in these gospel days, many Christian parents undertake the training of their children. How little effort is made to realize the importance and solemnity of the work! How little real prayer for the preparation of the Spirit to fit them for it! How little true surrender to a life for God as the only fitness for training a child for God! What would be thought on earth of a man offering to manage a bank or to navigate an ocean steamer who had no training to fit him for either? And what must be said of the presumption that feels no fear in taking charge of an immortal spirit of such priceless value, and undertakes to guide it through the temptations and dangers of life? Would God that all Christian parents might learn from Manoah to feel and confess their ignorance, and, like him, to set themselves at once to seek and obtain the needed grace.
We note, further, how Manoah's sense of need at once found expression in prayer. He believed in God as the living God, as the Hearer of prayer. He believed that where God gave a charge or a work, He would give the grace to do it right; that where God gave a child to be trained for His service, He would give the wisdom needed to do so aright. Instead of the sense of unfitness and feebleness depressing him, or the sense of his obligation setting him to work in his own strength, he simply prayed. Prayer to him was the solution of difficulties, the supply of need, the source of wisdom and strength. Let Christian parents learn from him. Each child is a gift of God as truly as Manoah's, and has as much as his to be trained for God and His service. Like him, we may count most confidently on the Father, who has entrusted the child to us, to give the grace to train. Let us only pray, pray believingly, pray without ceasing, at each step of our work; we may depend upon it, God hears prayer, and no prayer more surely than of a parent seeking wisdom to train his child.
There is one thing more we must specially observe in regard to Manoah's prayer: it was after his wife had told him of the injunctions the angel had given that he thus asked for guidance. He longed to hear them himself, to have full certainty and perfect clearness. As parents, we have in God's Word plain and full directions as to the training of our children; our own experience or that of others may have supplied us with much of great value to aid us in our task; all this does not diminish, it only increases the need of prayer. With each child, and each of its separate needs, we always need renewed wisdom direct from above; daily renewed prayer is the secret of training our children for God.
2. And now the answer. Let us learn the lesson Manoah's story teaches here: God loves to answer a parent's cry. The angel had nothing new to communicate above what he had previously said to the woman; and yet God sent him, because He would not leave His child, who seeks to know His will fully, in the dark. The fact of the angel having come once was what had encouraged Manoah to hope he might come a second time. Just they who have already had communications with God, and have had Divine teaching about their children, will be those who desire more, and pray for it most earnestly.
The answer to Manoah's prayer contained no new revelation; it simply pointed back to the instruction previously given: 'Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware; all that I commanded her let her observe.' In answer to our prayer, it may be that no new truth will be revealed, perhaps even no new thought impressed. But the answer to the prayer may be. something better. As the Holy Spirit leads us back to what the Lord hath already spoken, to study more carefully and adopt more unreservedly the principles laid down in Holy Scripture for the training of our children, we shall realize as never before how our children are the Lord's, and must be kept holy for Him; how parents are God's ministers, in whose holy life the children are to be blessed.
It is this last thought that comes out with special clearness. What were the commandments that had been given, and were now renewed? The angel had only spoken of the life of the mother before the birth of the child: the Nazarite child must have a Nazarite mother. The giving up of the fruit of the vine, the sacrifice of the stimulus and excitement and enjoyment of the world and the flesh, the not eating any unclean thing, separation to special purity and holiness,— this was God's secret of parental duty. Education consists not so much in anything we do or say, but most of all in what v:e are; and that not only when our children are of an age to see and judge, but long before, even before their birth. In that holy time of mystery, when mother and child are still one, and influences from a mother's spirit pass into the child, God says,' Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware; all that I commanded her let her observe.' It is a life of moderation and self-denial that does not ask how far and deep it may go into the world to enjoy all that is not absolutely forbidden, but that willingly gives up whatever is not helpful to entire consecration and fellowship with God; it is a life of purity and obedience that is the preparation for a mother's and a father's work. God's answer to the prayer,'How shall we order the child?' is, As you live, you train: live a Nazarite, holy to the Lord, and your child will be a Eazarite unto God, a deliverer of His people Israel.
3. The blessing that attended Manoah'a prayer was something more than the answer. There was the blessed revelation of God Himself, and the wonderful knitting together of the hearts of the parents. Ere he left them, the angel of the Lord so revealed himself that Manoah felt, We have seen God. When he asked the angel's name, he might not know it; his name was Wonderful. And the angel did ivon&rously. And this is still the name of the parent's God, Wonderful. It is as with Manoah we pray, and wait for, and accept His Divine teaching, and then ask Him to wait that we may bring Him an offering, that our eyes will be opened to see wondrous things, and to fall down and worship Him. Wonderful in His love, wonderful in His ways, wonderful in His work, wonderful in what He does for us as parents, and wonderful in what He does through us for our children; oh, let us worship the Lord, the parent's God, whose name is Wonderful! And let our prayer, like Manoah's, end in praise and worship, in faith and truth.
And how rich was the blessing this revelation brought to the praying couple. What a picture the chapter gives us of the way in which father and mother are lovingly to help each other in all that concerns their children. Manoah's wife gets the message from the angel; immediately she tells her husband. He prays at once for more light and fuller teaching. The angel comes again to her; she runs to tell Manoah, who follows her. He hears again what his wife had been told. When the sacrifice was offered, and the angel did wondrously, Manoah and his wife looked on together, and together fell on their faces to the ground. And when Manoah was afraid, and spake, 'We shall surely die because we have seen God,' she comforted him, and strengthened his faith.
Blessed fellowship of love and faith, of prayer and worship between husband and wife, to which the coming and the training of a child can lead! Oh, it is not only parents who are to be a blessing to their children; no, but children to their parents too. As they talk together of God's promises and His commands, as each tells the other what has been revealed to him, as they unite in seeking to know and carry out God's will, as they now pray in presence of each other, and then fall down in worship before Him whose name is Wonderful, as they unburden their fears, and encourage each other to trust and hope, they experience that the home school is as much for training parents themselves as their children, and that there is nothing opens the fountains of Divine love and of each other's love more than the prayerful desire to know how to order the children God has given them for His service and glory.
Blessed Lord! as those whom Thou hast joined together to train children for Thy holy service, we bow in united worship before Thee. Make us by Thy Holy Spirit to be so of one heart and mind, that all Thou revealest to the one may at once be witnessed to the other. Grant that in our conversations and our prayers, in our weakness and fear, in our faith and our worship, we may feel what blessing and help there is in Thy having sent us two and two to each little flock of children to be tended.
Lord God! we come to Thee now for wisdom for each child Thou hast given us. Of each one we would say, What shall be the ordering of the child, and what shall we do unto him? Open our eyes to see the treasures of wisdom in Thy Holy Word, in promise and instruction for parents and children. Especially reveal Thyself to us, we beseech Thee, as the God of the covenant and the promise, the parent's God, whose name is Wonderful. Teach us in holy fear and reverence, in childlike trust and joy, in purity of life and separation from the world, to walk before Thee, and so to train children that are Nazarites, holy to the Lord, prepared to fight for the kingdom, and to he the deliverers of the oppressed. Amen.