“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” (Is. 1:2)
The book of Isaiah opens with the Lord lamenting his rebellious children. God says that he nourished them and brought them up, and they have rebelled against Him. And we might be tempted think: well if God’s own children don’t turn out, who can hope to have children grow up to be faithful? If God’s parenting skills are not sufficient to produce godly offspring, who can be expected to do better?
But there are at least two lessons we can take from this. First, certain forms of covenant theology have highly mechanical views of how parenting and faithful children work: put the coin in the machine and out comes godly children. ‘Family devotions plus Christian education plus regular spankings, and out comes godly Christian children.’ And when the children turn out rebellious, we know that the parents failed. But by that equation, God failed as a father. It is true that God promises to bless faithfulness in parenting, and parents can trust the promises of God for the salvation of their children. But this leads to the second point: God’s parenting plan is not finished in Isaiah 1. Ultimately, God will come for his children in Jesus. He will drawn near them and embrace them. He will share their life, take upon himself their sins and hurts and diseases, and ultimately die for them.
There is no mechanical equation for faithful parenting and faithful children. The answer is love. Love that draws near. Love that embraces. Love that takes the weaknesses and hurt of children. Love that sympathizes and cares and ultimately dies and sacrifices for the children. God’s lament over his children provides hope for those parents who have days, weeks, months, even years where they see little or no fruit, where they have labored and nurtured children who have rebelled. God has felt your pain, but God did not stop there. God continued to pour Himself out for His children. And ultimately came for them in Jesus. And more to the point, God poured Himself out in love for your children. Jesus is God come for all the rebellious children. And therefore, we put our whole trust in God, and in the resurrection of Jesus.
And hearing this, we like Daniel cry out saying, “we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” (Dan. 9:5)