Parenting Lessons from the Israelites

Like so many other parents, I’ve caught myself thinking “I wish kids came with an instruction manual”. I mean having something that decipher the seemingly meaningless crying or help me make decisions on important things like school, discipline or vaccinations.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single written document that can address these specific issues. Sure there are books that can argue for one direction or the other, but how can you know which one is right? But we do have a manual that can teach us principles to follow when making faced with these various choices: the Bible.

The Infallible Parenting Guide

If you have spent anytime of your parenting journey in church then you have heard “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (Proverbs 22:6) at least once. You may have also come to realize that the Bible, particularly Proverbs, is full of wise sayings in regard to parenting. I love stumbling across these nurturing nuggets as I read, especially when they deal with common problems every parent faces like how to discipline (Proverbs 22:15), how to speak to your children (Proverbs 15:1), or what to teach your children (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

But the Bible contains more than just parental proverbs. It also contains a lot of parenting examples to follow. Some are good and some not so much.

Examples of Parenting

The Good. Pulling from both the Old and the New Testament we see the examples, or at least the results of good parenting. I would consider Abraham and Sarah to be good parents as they followed God faithfully and raised their Isaac to do the same. Amram and Jochebed (Moses’s parents) chose to defy Pharoah to save the life of Moses who would go on to be known as the servant of the Lord. I’d say that’s great parenting. And of course there are the parents of our Lord Himself, Mary and Joseph. While they really didn’t have much they could teach Jesus spiritually, they did lead by example and obeyed all the laws and customs: they waited the appropriate amount of time before taking the Baby to the temple, they obeyed the order to go to Bethlehem in the first place, and they heeded the voice of God and fled to Egypt for I don’t know how long.

Keep in mind though, these are sinful people who didn’t get it right every time. They doubted, they made mistakes, they disobeyed. There is only one perfect Parent and we will talk about Him in a bit.

The Bad. I’ve been reading through the Old Testament so I have to admit this list was a lot easier to form. The old Testament, specifically the Kings and Chronicles, are filled with examples of bad, and really bad parenting, Even in Judges we see that, as a society the Israelites abandoned the general command they were given in Deuteronomy 6. The whole book of Judges cycles through the results of forgetting the commands of God and doing “what’s right in their own eyes”.

The Power of the Mom

It doesn’t take to much time in the Bible to see that it feels very focused on men. That is because of the culture in which it was written, women were not held in very high regard. So finding anybody for moms to relate to and imitate is a difficult task. But motherhood examples are there. And the beauty of these examples is they show just how much influence a mother has over her children.

Timothy’s Mother. In the New Testament, there is a young preacher named Timothy. He was a student of the Apostle Paul and in a letter to him, Paul commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother for being faithful to teach and guide him according to the truth of the Bible. As a result of their faithfulness, God blessed them and rewarded their efforts by raise Timothy up to be a great preacher.

The mothers of the kings. As I mentioned, I’ve been reading through the Kings and Chronicles and have met all the kings of Israel, up until the Babylonian captivity. I’ve met kings who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” and kings who did evil. Toward the end of 2 Kings, I started noticing that some kings did not always follow in the ways of their fathers. Some walked with God while their fathers did evil and vice versa. The thing I found most interesting was the fact that in those situations, the mother’s of the kings were mentioned. I can’t help but wonder if that was because they were influential in guide their sons down their specific paths

The Proverbs 31 woman. No list of influential mothers would be complete without mentioning this woman. The list of her qualities and traits can be found in Proverbs 31:10-31. I’m not going to go into a detailed discussion of her here, but I would like to mention one thing: in verse 1, the introduction to the section says that it is an oracle of King Lemuel, taught to him by his mother. Talk about influence. This woman shared a small piece of wisdom with her son and it was put in the Bible and has been passed down from mother to mother.

The Ultimate Parenting Example

I hinted at this before, but I want to remind you that each person or group of people mentioned here were sinful people who had their own personal failures just like we do today. But there is one Father we can see working throughout Scripture who never once gave an unjust punishment, never experienced unrighteous anger, and never once made a mistake. Obviously that Father is God.

Jesus talks about the goodness of his Father in Matthew 6:25-34 when he instructs us not to be anxious for anything because our Father knows how to give good things to his children. The writer of Hebrews talks about how the Father disciplines those He loves, (Hebrews 12:6). And time and time again we see God guiding his servants along their sovereignly ordained paths.

So friend, when you come to a parenting crossroads and don’t know where to turn, look to God. Ask for wisdom and trust that he will guide you in the way you should go.

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