John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: April 9

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John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: April 9

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Rebellious Children


The relation in which the Lord delights to exhibit himself to his people is that of a father to his children; and when they are disobedient and rebellious, He impresses upon us the enormity of their conduct, by reminding us of the sternest of life’s sorrows—a father’s grief at the unworthiness of his son. “I have nourished and brought up children,” He says, “and they have rebelled against Me.” He had not only nourished them—that is, nursed Note: This is the sense of the word, now obsolete, but current when the authorized version was made. Thus, “nourice” was nurse. So Spenser calls Camden “the nourice of antiquity.” their infant and helpless years—but had watched over and sustained their growth—had “brought them up” to the strength and glory of manhood, and then—they rebelled against Him. There is a deep pathos in the suggestion here presented to the mind, of the solemn grief of a father over a rebellious and worthless son, on the one hand; and of the intensity of the son’s ingratitude in rebelling against the paternal hand, on the other. This appears with force even to us; but with much greater force must it have struck the minds of the Israelites, whose notions of filial reverence and duty were of a much stronger cast, like those of all Orientals, than we find prevalent among ourselves. We cannot measure the difference, nor do we know to what cause in national character, or in social or political institutions, it should be ascribed; but certain it is, that in this country and America—which, more than any other nations, enjoy the freest access to those Sacred Scriptures which set forth “Honor thy father and thy mother,” as “the first commandment with promise”—paternal authority is more feeble, and filial attachment and respect are less strongly manifested, than in any other country under heaven. Hence the force of such an allusion as this, which was intuitively apprehended in its fullest force by an Israelite, is, although comprehensible to the understanding, hardly felt in all its depth among ourselves, until a pause has been given to the consideration of the true character of the relation between a father and his child.

Then let us consider it—in order to realize that comprehension which the sluggish heart too often refuses, without the help of the reason, to furnish.

It is not, perhaps, until one becomes a parent himself, that he can thoroughly understand how much he owes to the care and love of his parents, during that earliest stage of his existence of which he retains no actual knowledge, although it leaves its mark upon him, in the habit of loving dependence, which is even then implanted. Then, although the father hangs with thankful fondness over the child that God has given to him and treads the paths of life with a more, elastic step in the consciousness of being a father, it is the mother’s love and care that reign paramount, as the young one nestles to her bosom, and draws its life from her; and as she, from day to day and hour to hour, untiringly watches its every look and movement, hastens to appease its little griefs, responds to its small tokens of infantine joy, and admires, as only mothers can, the signs of opening intelligence. The relation between these two, as we behold them, is not only beautiful in its lighter aspects, but sublime in its depths; for of all the “tender and delicate women” who thus hover blessingly over the early days of their children, there is not one in a thousand who would for a moment hesitate to confront the most savage perils, or to lay down her very life, for its sake.

Next think of the father’s less intimately tender care then, but then and after not less deep and earnest love towards his children. How fervently he prays for, and watches over, their welfare, and with what earnest solicitude he regards their wellbeing in soul and body, and marks their growth in strength, in knowledge, in piety, and intellect! For them he labors, for them he strives, for them denies himself; and that it is for them, makes his daily toil, his constant struggle, and all his self-denial, sweet. Oh, the cares, the anxious thoughts, the perplexing fears, which he has continually for their welfare in this life and in the life to come!

In view of all this, it seems like a moral impossibility that all this care and love should ever be returned with such stubbornness, disregard, rebellion, scorn, and wrong-doing, as must pierce the paternal heart sharper than any sword. It seems the greatest of enormities of which our fallen nature is capable; and therefore it is that the Lord brings it forward as the most forcible illustration of his people’s disregard of Him and rebellion against Him. “I have nourished and brought up children—and they have rebelled against Me.”

There are things worse than death, and this is one of them. In this conviction we were much impressed lately by a passage in the Memoir of the Rev. James Hay, D.D. Note: Sermons and Sacramental Addresses, by the Rev. James Hay, D.D. With a Memoir of the Author, by the Rev. William Mackelvie, D.D Edinburgh: Oliphant & Sons, 1851. Speaking of the state of mind to which he was reduced by the loss of many of his children in rapid succession, he says: “While still in this state of mind, a pious lady of my acquaintance called upon me, who had buried her husband and three sons. In the course of conversation, she remarked with many tears, that it was much easier to mourn over the dead than over the living; and then told me that her eldest surviving son, instead of being a comfort to her, and an example to the younger members of his family, was causing her much grief and anguish of mind—that he had gone far, very far, astray, and was resisting all her entreaties to be reclaimed. I felt upbraided by these acknowledgments, and saw that I had sinned by allowing myself to fall into the state of mind in which I then was. I mentioned this circumstance to my wife, and showed her what a lesson of resignation this lady had taught us.”

Not less to us than to the Israelites has the Lord been a father; and not less heinous in us than in them is the sin of filial ingratitude and rebellion against Him. Has he not from the beginning watched over us with a parent’s care? Did He not conduct us safely through all the perils of the wilderness, and feed us from day to day with bread from heaven and water from the rock? Has he not all our life defended us from our enemies on every side? Has he not paternally instructed us by his servants, by his statutes and judgments, and by his good Spirit? And if from time to time He has chastened, has it not been as a father chasteneth his son—loving him most when he smites him hardest? Let us believe that if we be born of God, we are indeed his children; and let us not rebel in heart or hand against Him who hath nourished and brought us up, but strive day by day to grow up in all things to the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus.