Discipling Children, Part 2: Children as Covenant People
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind.
The key theme of Scripture is God’s divine plan to redeem his people, which has been in motion since the beginning of time. This master plan consisted of Christ coming to earth in the flesh to be both fully human and fully God. Christ as fully human came into the world through the blessing of creation. It is through this blessing that we witness the Lord’s covenant revealed through generations to bring about the redeeming love of Christ. This great love story not only includes the blessing of children but also gives witness to the essential role children play in the divine plan and the identity of God’s people.
Allow me to take you back to the beginning.
God’s intention of children as a blessing is evident in his creation of humankind and through the instruction and delight of procreation: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Gen 1:28). Soon after, sin disrupts the relationship between God and his blessings. As the story continues, Gen 3-11 exposes the result of evil in the world, which leads God to begin a new chapter of redemption.
God’s covenantal relationship with his people unfolds in Gen 12 when he promises to make a great nation through Abram’s descendants. After agonizing years of waiting and a name change, God’s promise to Abraham prevails in his old age, and a blessing is born in the form of a child. Through this child Isaac, and through his children’s children, God built his great nation and blessed other nations. Through these children, a messiah came to deliver all nations.
There is no coincidence that God chose the blessing of creation to give life to his master plan of redemption. It is through generations of children which his nation was built and a bloodline of a child through which Christ descended. God's covenant was passed down to each generation of Jews, from the exile and exodus to the wilderness and beyond, which provided identity for God’s people.
Once the Jews reached the Promised Land, Joshua established the teaching of faith to children as top priority for the Jews through the setting of stones at Gilgal (see Josh 4). The Jews were instructed to bring stones from the middle of the Jordan river and place them on dry ground, so that when their children’s children asked of the purpose and importance of the stones, they would reply, “So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” God’s intent to continue a bloodline, kingdom, and plan of salvation was through the teaching of children.
Allow that to sink in for a minute.
Perhaps the kingdom of God belonging to children has greater implications than we originally thought, for it is through children and for children that his kingdom was built. The role God set aside for children as blessings and covenant people means that children are people with identity and value, not second-class citizens or an afterthought. Through the creation of children the Lord blessed the first humans, fulfilled a promise to Abraham, and brought a messiah. Through children God establishes identity and spreads his glory through all nations. Through children God's ultimate plan of redemption prospers. May our churches reflect the value of children, for the kingdom of God belongs to them and spreads through the nations because of them.
See part 1 in this series.