Children are Special to God PDF Print E-mail

by Benjamin E. Sheldon


January 22, 1989
Bethany Collegiate Presbyterian Church,
Havertown, Pennsylvania

    Scriptures:

    At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
    Matthew 18:1-6

    "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
    Matthew 18:10-11

    Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
    children a reward from him.
    Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are sons born in one's youth.
    Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
    They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
    Psalm 127:3-5

    For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother's womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place.
    When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
    your eyes saw my unformed body.
    All the days ordained for me
    were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
    Psalm 139:13-16

    Text:
    "Their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."
    Matthew 18:10b

God loves little children. Jesus declared that being like a child means greatness in God's kingdom. Humble, child-like faith is what God is pleased with. Receiving a child is like receiving him, he affirmed, and the worst kind of punishment is reserved for those who lead little ones, dear and precious to God, into sin.

Now, of course, there is no doubt that God does watch over his children, as Psalm 91 so eloquently says, "He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." (Words that Satan threw in the face of Jesus when he tempted him to jump down from the pinnacle of the temple.)

And I do thank God for all his protecting angels who do guard our footsteps.

Nevertheless, when this text speaks of "their angels in heaven" it is more likely referring to the spirits of children who have died, and I believe that what Jesus is saying is:

    Be very careful that you do not despise these little ones, for their destiny is to enjoy the undiluted glory of the Father's presence in heaven.

The Bible's use of the word "angel" with this meaning is not uncommon. Recall (in Acts chapter 12) that when Peter was miraculously delivered from prison and he came to the house where the believers were gathered, the serving girl, Rhoda, didn't let him in, but instead, she ran to tell the others. However, they were skeptical of her report that Peter was standing outside, and they said, "IT MUST BE HIS ANGEL."

What Jesus is saying is that these children are precious in God's sight and so precious, in fact, that they will continue in his presence even after death.

This is just what Psalm 8:2 means when it says: "Above the heavens, your glory is sung by the mouths of babes and infants," words that Jesus quoted to the Scribes and Pharisees on Palm Sunday, remember, when they rebuked him for tolerating the children's loud, noisy "hosannas" in the Temple courts.

And as an aside, so often people ask the question, well, what happens to children who die in infancy? Here is a very comforting and helpful answer, I think: they are part of the chorus of heavenly praise who are surrounding God's throne at this very moment. There may be some here today who have lost their children in infancy--let this word be a source of hope and comfort to you.

And, in light of the incredible number of infants being slaughtered [in the abortion mills] before they have even been born, this passage offers a special word of hope and comfort and even a measure of irony. For the more the devil rages, the more praise and glory God gets. "Above the heavens, you have founded a bulwark of praise from the lips of infants and children, in order to silence your foes and the avenger."

I.

I want to affirm, in the first place, that Children are the special joy of God's heart.

Psalm 127 puts it so clearly, declares so emphatically that children are a gift from God, a heritage of joy and blessing, a reward from him. There is a special blessing in children. It is one of the enigmas of our modern age, that so many people fail to acknowledge that children are a blessing.

Mary Pride, in a recent book entitled The Way Home, has a chapter entitled: "God's Least-Wanted Blessing"--and she describes the attitude among many couples who reject the idea of having children, and, she says, many women view their God-given role of motherhood as a burden. Let me quote:

    With the advent of family planning in the 50's, motherhood began to be questioned. In the 60's, the push was on for abortion rights. In the 70's abortion was legalized and motherhood became just another option on the menu of life. Today, motherhood has become a hobby. Couples don't want babies--certainly not more than one, or maybe two, and those (only) after they have paid for the new car and made some progress on the mortgage. When one or two have dutifully arrived, that is that.

And, she adds a few sentences later,

    This spirit has crept into our churches as well. I remember how much it shocked me the first time we heard a Christian mother (of one!) complain about how much work her baby was and swear that she'd never have another one. That kind of remark is commonplace. Women, even Christian women, seem to feel no shame about rejecting the whole idea of motherhood, and their own children...along with it.

What is even more amazing, even secular writers are beginning to notice and comment on this anti-child prejudice in our day. Germaine Greer, a noted feminist writer, devotes the entire first chapter of her recent book, Sex and Destiny: the Politics of Human Fertility to lamenting and satirizing our modern lack of affection for children. She writes:

    Historically, human societies have been pro-child; modern society is unique in that it is profoundly hostile to children. We in the west do not refrain from childbirth because we are concerned about the population explosion or because we feel we cannot afford children, but because we do not like children.

My dear friends, in our modern age, the realization of what a special blessing from God children are, and that they are to be joyfully welcomed and desired has been lost amidst a secular mind-set and a materialistic culture that is essentially anti-child. Have we forgotten that Jesus said: The Kingdom of heaven belongs to little children.(Matthew 19:14-15) "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

And, to welcome a little child is to welcome Him, himself. In the light of these verses, we must see what a high value he places on children!! We need more, not fewer, babies and God wants to bless us with them, if we will receive his blessing.

Now, everything we are saying about how special children are to God applies to unborn babies, as well as born ones. One writer prefers to speak of "pre-born" rather than unborn. That puts the emphasis on the fact that a baby, born or preborn, is still a baby, known, loved, cared for by God.

II.

Therefore, my second point is: The unborn child is created in God's image and is his handiwork, the object of his creative and redemptive love.

The Bible is very clear that even before birth everyone--everyone--is a separate individual, with a distinct personality known to God. In Psalm 139, which I also read, David speaks of how God was at work in him in a very personal way.

    You knit me together in my mother's womb
    "I" am fearfully and wonderfully made

David saw God at work in and through him personally, even before birth. And Jeremiah saw God's hand in his life long before his birth, as well. Jeremiah 1:4ff--"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Isaiah 49:15 tells us that even though a mother may reject her unborn child, (or even destroy it), God promises that he will continue to care, he will not forget: for God says "I will not forget you."

So it is clear from Scripture that God does have a divine intention in the creation of everyone and children are no exception. He does know and love us before our birth, and every single human--created in his image--is very precious to him. I heard Mother Teresa say this so emphatically in St. Louis last summer-- "Every unborn child is precious to God"--EVERY ONE. NO EXCEPTIONS!!!

III.

So my third point is that the willful destruction of an unborn child does violence not only to God's handiwork, but also to the divine intention in the Creator's mind from the beginning, and to the divine will in redemption, as well. When we abuse God's creation, we offend God; and, worst, it seems to me, we deny the value of Christ's redeeming work for all human beings, including unborn children. Abortion is the ultimate form of child abuse.

The abuse of children is an abomination to God. He who loves children, who gives them as blessings and rewards to us, who wants us to receive them in his name, will not allow people forever to reject children or to abuse them.

Look at II Kings 17, where the record tells us that their final downfall came because the Israelites had sinned against God. And high on the list of their abominations and sins, vs. 17 says, was that--"they sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire" --something that Leviticus 20 had expressly forbidden:

    Any Israelite who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death...for by giving his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my name. AND if the people of the community close their eyes when that man gives one of his children to Molech and they fail to put him to death, I will set my face against that man and his family and will cut off from their people both him and all who follow him by prostituting themselves to Molech.

Jeremiah tells us in chapter 32:35 that Judah did the same thing, and Jeremiah records that the Lord says, "I never commanded it nor did it enter my mind that they should do such a detestable thing."

Jesus will judge our regard for him by the way we have treated the vulnerable, the helpless, the weak--whom he calls "the least of these, my brothers" in Matthew 25:40.

It is children, born and unborn, who are the weak, the vulnerable, the defenseless, the very least of all. God's loving care is always for the weak and the helpless.

So on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we must heed this warning that comes from the lips of Jesus himself, "Be careful that you do not despise even one of these little ones."

God will judge us strictly by the way we have regarded children. For God loves children and he wants us to love them too.

Thank God for our children.

Thank God for our parents.
The Rev. Benjamin E. Sheldon is recently retired as senior pastor of Bethany Collegiate Presbyterian Church in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and he now resides in Elverson, Pennsylvania.

 

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