Gospel-Shaped Parenting

When God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth in Genesis 1, God is made known that his design and purpose for the whole of his world is the family. God appointed the family, founded by a man and woman united together in the covenant of marriage, to be the fundamental building block of his world. And God appointed the family to be the instrument he uses to complete his purpose for creation—filling it with a people who love him and love one another. In this way, God intends what is true of families to be true of his world.

In the midst of a world now plagued and ravaged by sin, God has called your family to offer a foretaste of the abundant life in the Kingdom of God to the world. We have been summoned not to retreat from the world but to live in the world as living demonstrators and verbal proclaimers of the good news of Jesus.

God intends what is true of families to be true of his world.

Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we will be looking at and unpacking Psalm 127 to help pattern and rhythm our family life to the tune of the gospel’s song that our families might know it and love it well and invite others to share in its life-giving dance.

Psalm 127 is a wisdom psalm. This begs the question, what is wisdom? Wisdom is a concept that is most likely vague at best for us saturated in Western culture. Biblically, wisdom is both discernible—we can know it—and practical—we can do something with it. Before moving too far along, it would be unjust to embark on any discussion of wisdom without giving due attention to its genesis. Proverbs 1.7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Scripture would have us first ask what is fear of the Lord? before asking what is wisdom? 

Simply put, fear of the Lord is a humble recognition of his unique and rightful place as Creator and Sovereign. As simple as this may sound in passing, the reality of our lives is that we are not satisfied with being like God, bearing his image, ruling over and caring for his creation as under-sovereigns. We want to be God, promoting our own image, subjecting ourselves to no other rule or law than our own. This, to use the language of Proverbs, is folly. Yet wisdom has its beginning in a humble recognition of God as Creator and submission to his rule, law and governance as Sovereign.

Life is lived most fully, most abundantly, most freely in obedience of God’s rules and laws.

So if this is the beginning of wisdom, what is wisdom? There is much that could be said here, but suffice it to say for now that wisdom is a sensitivity to and obedience of God’s creational design and intent for the human existence. God, as Creator and Sovereign, has set in place certain rules or laws that are to govern the whole of the human life. While in humanistic thinking, rules and laws are a constriction of freedom, biblically, rules and laws are a condition of freedom. In other words, biblically, life is lived most fully, most abundantly, most freely in obedience of God’s rules and laws. So we see that wisdom is discernible in our sensitivity to the laws and rules of God as revealed in Scripture and it is also practical in our conforming to God’s creational patterns and intentions in the whole of life.

In Psalm 127, Solomon makes it clear in the first two verses that all human toil, all human effort, all human laboring and striving and exertion is in vain apart for the Lord. But upon a cursory read, these opening verses seem entirely disconnected from verses 3-5. All is vanity apart from the Lord in verses 1-2… Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward in verse 3. Yet when we rightly understand wisdom as sensitivity to and obedience of God’s rules & laws for the human existence, it becomes clear that the eternal reality of verses 1-2 govern and dictate the earthly reality of verses 3-5.

Meaning in all human affairs and all spheres of human existence is rooted and grounded in God’s nature as Creator—the one who created man in the beginning—and his nature as Sovereign—the one who rightfully rules over him.

The eternal reality of verses 1-2 is this—God, as Creator and Sovereign has set forth certain patterns and rhythms for the whole of human life apart from or outside of which all is vanity and meaningless. “Unless the Lord build the house those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain you rise up early and go late to rest.” Solomon is petitioning the reader in these verses to be wise. He is imploring us to wisdom. He is reminding the reader and reminding us that God alone is God and that we can do nothing apart from him. But take note of what he is not saying. He is not saying unless the Lord builds the house, you cannot build it. He is not saying unless the Lord watches over the city the watchman cannot. He is saying that apart from a recognition of and submission to God’s rule and reign over these labors, they are meaningless. He is exalting Yahweh, the Lord, the Creator and Sovereign God as uniquely qualified to give meaning to human life and existence. Meaning in all human affairs and all spheres of human existence is rooted and grounded in God’s nature as Creator—the one who created man in the beginning—and his nature as Sovereign—the one who rightfully rules over him. Being reminded of this eternal reality, Solomon now brings the eternal reality to bear on the earthly reality of children and parenting in verses 3-5.

God authored the gospel before the foundation of the world that would make it possible for him to be Father of the children of God whom he thrusts out into his world as ambassadors of Christ’s redemption.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 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.” God is the one who designed the family unit, who set forth laws and rules to govern the form and function of it from the beginning. He is the one who formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He is the one who fashioned woman out of man and then decreed that man should leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife in the covenant of marriage. He is the one who commanded man and woman from the beginning to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. And he is the one who authored the gospel before the foundation of the world that would make it possible for him to be Father of the children of God whom he thrusts out into his world as ambassadors of Christ’s redemption.

Our parenting must bear the marks of the good news and great joy of Christ’s redemption.

The form of the family is a man and woman in the context of covenantal union becoming husband and wife and producing children. The function of the family is to multiply and fill the earth. Both the form and the function of the family are by the perfect, wise design of God. The earthly reality of the family is designed to echo and mirror to reflect and display the eternal reality of God’s nature and character. So the question arises: how is the earthly reality of family and children to echo and mirror the eternal reality of God’s supreme and unique place as Creator and Redeemer of all things? In other words, how is our parenting to be shaped by the gospel? We will tend to this question in the coming weeks, but we cannot give a right answer to this question without remembering that our family life has been set in the context of God’s wise and benevolent rule over and intention for his world. Therefore, our parenting must bear the marks of the good news and great joy of Christ’s redemption.

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