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Foundation Truth, Number 11 (Winter 2005) | Timeless Truths Publications

King David’s Sons

David was taken from the sheepcote, where he had learned to trust God to fight the battles of life by contending with lions and bears. He was taken to a king’s court, where he discovered that there were much more deadly foes than these animals. He found himself on a sea of adversity, and every victory God gave him simply made his situation more precarious. He became a fugitive for years, an outlaw with a price on his head; and undertook the thankless job of riding herd on relatives, the distressed, debtors, and the discontented. In all of this, God had mercy on him and helped him.

After all these experiences, “unto David were sons born in Hebron.”* (2 Samuel 3:2) Imagine the feelings in David’s heart as he gazed in turn on Amnon, Chileab, Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah, and Ithream. It is impossible to believe that this sensitive man, this poet, would not have played with his children, rejoicing in their little lives with each little advantage gained. It is true that each of these children had a different mother, and this was not according to the divine pattern of marriage from the beginning, but in the Old Testament dispensation, God suffered men to do many things because of the delay in providing something better for them through the blood of Jesus.

Sons were born unto David. “A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.”* (Jeremiah 20:15) Surely he felt toward each of these infant boys as Jacob felt toward Rachel’s youngest, “his father called him Benjamin,”* (Genesis 35:18) which means, “son of my joy.” Perhaps he brought each of them presents: a miniature sword, spear, or bow; or perhaps a scroll or hammer, just as fathers imagine future capabilities and needs in their offspring today. How he must have doted on them!

Our children are washed and shining markerboards before us, and it seems so plausible and possible to write boldly upon them: “Thou shalt be a warrior.” “Thou shalt be a priest.” “Thou shalt be noble and do exploits.” And with this comes an uprising of consecration. “I’ll be there for you. I’ll tell you all I have discovered and know. I’ll share in your triumphs and commiserate with you in your setbacks.” At this stage of things, it seems so likely, so appropriate, that this bone of your bone and blood of your blood will become an extension of your experience, your understanding, your very life.

Reality intrudes. There are many other influences in the child’s life besides those of his parents. And, in addition to the influences of the spouse and the spouse’s family, what of sin and inherited depravity? The entire human race has been under the curse of Adam since the fall, and we were all born “the children of wrath.”* (Ephesians 2:3)

God designed the human experience to be perpetuated through mothers, fathers, and their offspring growing up in the family. (Consider: should we not be thankful that we are not designed for continuation in the manner of turtles?) There is a wonderful divine wisdom in the process. Few things have the capacity to humble us and get a hold of our hearts as the care and nurture of our children. We catch a hint of this in 1 Timothy 2:15. “Saved in childbearing”! Many a young father and mother has been sobered and settled by the awesome responsibility of launching a new life. The great Creator has positioned a profound experience in the earthly existence of men which operates wonderfully on the soul.

As with most things that have great capacity for joy and glorious fulfillment, parenting also has an equally great capacity for the greatest desolation and searing horror. Here again, our great continual need for divine assistance is underlined and underlined again and again.

We get an insight into the values of King David’s parenting in the thirteenth chapter of 2 Samuel where Ammon, David’s son, and his friend, Jonadab, plan to outwit the protections designed and engineered for the safety of the members of the family. It was necessary to get the king’s (father’s) permission to execute their evil design. The family of David had built-in protections in the way access was allowed to each other; they were surrounded by walls, so to speak, and these walls must need be breached for the disastrous horror conceived by Ammon and Jonadab to succeed.

We also perceive that it is not enough to wisely govern or to apply solid values of virtue and honor to the family circle “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”* (Psalm 127:1) This scripture was inspired to the understanding of one of David’s sons. If the Spirit of God had given discernment to David as he visited Ammon in his faked illness and listened to his request, then Tamar would have been spared tragedy and Absalom would not have taken up his blood grudge for his sister’s sake which opened the way to his ambition to usurp the throne and murder his father.

All of David’s hopes that his children would grow up to be fine, noble young men and women were dependent on God’s helping him at every critical moment. He was doing his best, but his best was not good enough. He needed more than his best; David needed God in this. The reader can see at a glance that both things are critical for success in this most solemn of ventures: an applied understanding of heavenly wisdom in the raising, training, and governing of the young, and direct intervention and inspiration from God.

A mother was washing dishes one night. The voice of her Lord spoke to her. “Go outside,” He said. She lived in a farmhouse deep in the country, and there were no curtains on the windows. In obedience to the voice, she went outside. She could see inside the bedroom of her youngest daughter. This daughter was standing in front of the mirror, scissors in hand, preparing to carefully and unobtrusively cut her hair (1 Corinthians 11:15). “Delores!” the mother called out of the dark, “What are you doing?”

Had God not alerted the mother’s heart, it is unlikely that the actions of the daughter would have been noticed. The worldliness of the daughter’s heart was rebuked, and it was rebuked in such a way that the Spirit of God used the incident to deal with her heart. She got saved, eventually married a saved young man, and is living for God today. It could have been different, but God helped the mother.

At the critical moment, in King David’s family, God did not help David. He just left him to do the best that he could. This was not arbitrary, and it certainly was not because God did not care. God did care, but David had stepped over a certain line wherein the justice of God proscribed a certain judgment. “Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house.”* (2 Samuel 12:11) To fulfill this judgment, God did not have to do anything but withdraw. It is a sober thought indeed to consider that all God has to do is withdraw from us just a little, and then we and ours will most certainly come to grievous harm.

Just a little independence of God, a little stubbornness, a little wilfulness. Just a little pride in my family background, my achievements, my grasp of the whole subject of child raising. What damage it can do if God just leaves me alone or if I resist the gentle prompting of His Spirit! So much is at stake!

God has seen fit to allow the great majority of mankind to undergo the experience of governing other human beings. It is a solemn and weighty responsibility with lifelong consequences. Once you are a parent, you are never a non-parent again. Even if your children die and you are left, you are still a parent. If you neglect and shirk your responsibilities, you are still a parent—a neglectful and negligent parent. All Bible counsel and mandate that applies to government at other levels finds some application in this most common and serious responsibility.

God, in mercy, has left us an all-encompassing example of parenting. The great Father-In-Heaven tells us, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.”* (Ephesians 5:1) Another translation reads, “Be ye imitators of God.” The Bible speaks of God’s management of us in these terms, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”* (Hebrews 12:5-7) Here is a whole school in the necessity and secrets of chastisement. It is perfectly done by God the Father. Again we read, “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”* (Ephesians 1:8)

In this sinful world, many live their lives at great disadvantage; for the iniquity of the parents is afflicted on the offspring, even to the third and fourth generation. Many parents do not know how to parent; many are clueless as to even know where to begin. Others are horribly scarred and disfigured by abuses and excesses. Some have been raised by incompetent parents; others have not been raised at all, they just grew up without any oversight. Still others have been twisted by deceptions and philosophies. Shattered homes are everywhere.

In the midst of all this wreckage and desolation, God the Father continues to manifest a beautiful and perfect example of comprehensive parenting. He perfectly deals with the normal and the abnormal challenges of mankind. Truly, He doeth all things well.

You may say, “Well, He is God. How can I be like Him?” I will answer, “He wants you to be godly. He wants you to be a partaker of His nature and of His wisdom.” You will, of course, never even come close to His capability and capacity, nor were you intended to do so. That is not the point. It is simply that He has what you need and is able and willing to impart it to you. He is a perfect example. He is able to sustain and support you. He is able to fill in the gaps and compensate for the shortcomings in your understanding and ability. God is able to teach you how to parent even if your parents failed you.

We read of a mother who experienced a strange and bewildering conflict between two brothers before they born. “And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”* (Genesis 25:22-23)

Now God is the alpha and omega of all our needs, and this includes our children as well. He was there when the soul of the child was given, and He is there when the soul of the child returns to Him who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). He knows everything there is to know about each of us, including a perfect comprehension of those for whom we are responsible, and He imparts His wisdom to us without upbraiding (James 1:5). It is our privilege to inquire of the Lord and get the answers we need to fulfill our sacred charge.

One of the more humbling aspects of governing other human beings is the incredible diversity of human nature and mentality. Many a mother or father has thought on one or more of their children with baffled incomprehension. “This child is not like me. He (or she) is not like my spouse. He’s just different!” As an old sister said to my wife and I after our first was born, “Each one comes with its own recipe!” This is very true, although it is frequently denied by those who insist on forcing square pegs into round holes, etc. (“Come on! You’re really round! Go on in!” Wham! Wham! Wham!) Because people are so different, a simplistic approach is inadequate. Many a couple has been given a submissive, easy-to-manage child as their first-born, and they have had a relatively easy time of it, as a result. This lulled them into thinking they were mastering this parenting business. Then God would given them a bigger challenge in the second, third, or fourth; and it would seem as if hardly any of the lessons grasped in the first continued to apply. The latter-born would be so different as to make the parents have to learn all over again how to do their job. Then again, at times it goes the other way; and the first-born is a real handful.

A parent was asked by one of her grown children if she disciplined all of them the same. The question was framed by a discussion about treating our children fairly and evenly. “No,” she replied. The listener was surprised. “Some of you needed more spankings,” the mother said. It can be unfair to treat all the children equally.

If we are guided by a reasoning that seeks to amplify the uniqueness of each child, we will give them a false impression of what our existence is all about. Each of us is a unique treasure, but each of us must deal with our Creator, with moral law, with the common boundaries that God has imposed on all mankind. If we ignore the specialness of each human being, we err. It must be considered, but all are subject to the Word of God. The little boy said, “I know I must be special, cause God don’t create no junk!” Yet, He is no respecter of persons.

Absalom thought he was mighty special. And he was. He had movie-star good looks. The Bible even informs us about how unique his hair was (2 Samuel 14:25-26). His daughter, Tamar (named after her aunt), was beautiful, also. These people needed special help from God to deal with their gifts, lest those gifts should prove a curse to them, and they did not get that special help. Absalom devoted the rest of his life to avenging his sister, even to the point of attempting to usurp the place that God had given to his father. He attempted this usurpation with an amazing patience and cunningness for forty years (2 Samuel 15:7) and successfully stole the hearts of Israel. His brother also attempted to seize the throne toward the end of David’s life (1 Kings 1:5), and we are given an insight into their raising. “And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?”* (1 Kings 1:6) Their father’s indulgence played a big part in their rebellion. David spoiled his boys by not “displeasing” them. There is no doubt that he loved them (2 Samuel 18:33). In spite of David’s love for his boys, he failed them. He failed them because he did not cross them and contradict them as he should have. He failed them because God left him to do the best he could by himself. As Eli and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:13; 8:5), he did not restrain his sons.

I will here quote from a tract on child raising:

We do not claim to be an expert in the raising and care of children. Generally those who have no children, or at the most only one, two, or three, can (or think they can) tell you just how to raise your children. We have six children, three boys and three girls (the youngest are twins, a boy and a girl), now grown and all married.

We just want to give from experience some thoughts on correcting children which we have found to be good in causing the child to respect and obey. In the first place, parents should not speak or do anything that they would not want their child to do, then or later, as the child is watching your actions and deeds. It would seem wrong to the child for you to correct or punish it for a thing that you were doing. And would it not be wrong?

I knew a man with a large family who prided himself on how he trained his boys. He had one daughter; all the rest were boys, and they behaved quite well because they were all scared of Daddy. He had them under control. They did not dare to misbehave. He had been in the military, and he ruled his house with military-like precision. It appeared impressive at first acquaintance. Eventually, they grew up, as boys will do, and with the exception of one, they did not live right. Even the one that lived right had problems. Daddy was a hypocrite. He did not live what he enforced. He did not win their hearts. He compelled obedience, but not from the heart level. In fact, he was mean and untrustworthy.

By contrast, I knew another man who had two sons. He whipped them when they misbehaved, and they resented it. They did not appreciate the restraint. Then another act of disobedience occurred, and retribution was upon them. Daddy was fixing to whip them. Then he did a strange thing. He broke down and cried. He said, “God knows I don’t want to whip my boys, but I must. I want them to grow up to be good men.” By this time, the boys were crying, too. The whipping went on, but the boys were already whipped inside. They had been touched at the heart level. It was overwhelmingly evident that Daddy was chastising them because it needed to be done, not just because he was bigger and could.

A mother was deeply provoked by her child. He had tried her immensely in the most aggravating way possible. Chastisement was needed. The mother seized the child. “You little imp!” she said. The Spirit of God convicted her of what she said. She was a saved woman and received her chastisement even as she was administering chastisement to her son. The switch was in her hand, and she was about to commence with the whipping. But before she whipped the child, she apologized. I was that child, and the fact that Mother asked my forgiveness for calling me an imp hit me hard. I fully deserved to be called an imp, for I was doing a pretty good imitation of one from the bowels of hell; but the sincerity of Mother’s efforts to deal with me cut me to the heart. It helped me to see how wrong I was. It was not just that Mother was displeased with me. I was wrong. I was wrong, before God, before heaven, before everything important, noble, and right. It was not merely a calculated effort on Mother’s part to work on me she was trying to do right, too.

The first governors of the child, typically the parents, are the early pioneers in encountering the subtility and deceptiveness of the child’s unregenerated human heart. It defies analysis. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”* (Jeremiah 17:9)

We tend to read into the actions of the child what is in our heart. If we are affectionate, loving, and empathetic, then we notice hopeful appearing things in the child. If we are suspicious, morose, and distrusting, we will interpret the child’s actions in that light. And so on: jealousy, hardness, indulgence, wickedness, fanaticism, and pride. These thoughts are all our own imaginings. The reality is that the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked beyond the asserted will of the little baby. It is a thing by nature (Ephesians 2:3). This nature produces a sinner one who deliberately and rebelliously offends before God. The little sinner will take any one of thousands of paths of disobedience and be condemned before God. It does this before it knows any better, therefore knows no condemnation; but a day comes when the child does know and is accountable to God.

To be a saved parent is to size this up correctly and to know that the only good ending to this is repentance from the heart and inspired faith in the mighty Savior. The only other end will be rejection of the striving of the Holy Spirit and a final destination in hell at the end of the way. To be a saved parent is to be an humbled ambassador who represents God to the child. With the Apostle Paul, we are compelled to confess, “And who is sufficient for these things?”* (2 Corinthians 2:16) Godly parenting is to respond to the call, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”* (Isaiah 6:8) with a burdened heart, crying to God for what we need to meet the burden of the hour.

Make no mistake. To be a parent is to be a foot soldier in the trenches. It is to endure hardship as becometh a good soldier of Jesus Christ. It is to be a little pastor to a little flock wherein much more is taught by example than by tongue, yet there is definite, critical work for the tongue, the knees, and the will, as well. It is to give your heart, your mind, your nerves, yes, your very life to the struggle against sin in the inward parts of your child. You have no chance at all without being used and greatly helped by the Holy Ghost.

It is a wise parent who tarries at the Pentecostal altar until he or she is endued with power from on high. If Jesus is everything to you indeed, and you are filled with the Spirit, then you will be helped to see things as He sees them, and you can work the works of God in your family. You will see firsthand the desperate struggle of the Spirit of God as He strives to enlighten and convict the sinful soul of its need. God has thus planned to give us a little part in the great battle of right against wrong. It is your privilege to be an earthen vessel in the great conflict with stakes of the highest.

One of our boys, when eight or nine years of age, began to slip money. Wife would lay some change on the cupboard shelf and would sometimes miss a nickel or a dime. We suspected this boy of taking it, but refrained from accusing him of it. We prayed about it, asking God to clearly uncover the matter in some way.

One day while I was working in the office, wife came in and told me that our oldest boy had missed a quarter from his money and that he was accusing the other boy of taking it. He was stirring around about it considerably and said that he saw him eating candy and felt sure that he had bought it with his money. This news made us feel bad, for we felt it would be a serious thing to charge the boy of stealing, should he not be guilty. With heavy hearts, we fell on our faces before God and asked Him to give us wisdom in the matter so the boy could be corrected and taught a lesson that he would not forget. After the day’s work was done, we went to the house and called the boy to us. We told him that we were feeling bad and very much grieved for we had always taught him to do right. As we continued to speak, he burst into tears and confessed taking the money. We talked to him of the wrong of this and what it would lead to, and told him that it was needful for us to whip him for this as it was too great a thing to let go, and that we wanted him to remember not to do that way any more. Also, he was to pay back the money just as fast as he got it, so his wrongs would all be made right. We have never had reason since that time to think that he ever took any more money. In this time of need, we simply looked to God for wisdom, and all came out well, and so it will in all things that perplex and puzzle us. As we look to God, He will untangle and show us how, when, and what to do.

In Judges 13:12, we read of Samson’s father. He did a wise thing. He asked of God through His angel how to go about the task of rearing the child. “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” We have no reason to believe that Samson’s parents did not do all they could to raise Samson properly, yet Samson did not respond as he should. In Judges 14:3, we observe a willfulness in this boy that did not augur well for the future. (It is true that God used Samson’s stubborn desire for a heathen wife to restrain the Philistines, but this sinfulness in Samson was a bad thing, nevertheless.)

In this business of raising the next generation, there is no guarantee that our children will turn out well. That is between them and God. It cannot be otherwise. We cannot take away their right to choose right or wrong by how well we do our job. Some have felt that Proverbs 22:6 means that our children cannot possibly go astray if we train them up well. They would have us believe that if the child goes astray, he was not trained as he should be. The scripture reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” If the child is trained in the ways of righteousness, it will leave a lifelong impression which the individual will never completely be able to escape.

This was true in the case of Samson. He was blessed in his early life, but lost a lot of that blessing in his more mature years because of his sinfulness. He retained his supernatural strength as long as he kept the conditions God had commanded, but even before he broke those conditions, it is painfully evident that Samson’s life was a wretched disappointment. There was no happy home. There were no nurtured children. There was no beneficial relationship with a loving wife. Instead, we see the unequal yokes, the mutual exploitation, the restless, loveless, and selfish parodies of two-becoming-one. We see the lack of prayer in Samson’s life—there is so little of it! Finally, he is reduced to blindness and slavery. How could it be otherwise? Many today, who are “successful” in the world, are really in the same condition. Standing in the great hall, mocked and ridiculed by his enemies in the very last hour of his life, he remembers the God of his upbringing. He prays and God is entreated of him. “When he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The great heavenly Parent suffers constantly at the rejection and rebellion of sinful children, yet continually pursues and exercises a loving oversight and responsibility toward each member of the human family upon the face of the earth. He gives us a little part in this. If we take our responsibility to heart and cry earnestly to God for assistance, we become closer to God. It reveals to us our great need and plays a part in preparing us for our eternal home. It is a great privilege to be an earthen vessel parent.