Train Up a Child by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAIN UP A CHILD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Train up a Child

Introduction: Potty training can be a nightmare. We have four kids and I’d rather not tell you which one was a nightmare. One of them we really thought was going to go through high school in pull-ups! Very stubborn! This one would find new ways to hide from us. I remember Nicole would be in tears. Thank goodness when they finally got it! The best day of my life, probably next to the day I got saved and got married! I’m sure you would agree that when it comes to our kids, potty training is just the beginning. They need life training. Today’s message in our series on the family is titled, “TRAIN UP A CHILD.”

Genesis 25   21 Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived…24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob…27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Question: Do you believe that children can be trained and should be trained? Do you believe what the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it”? Are you doing all you can to train your children in the way they should go? Do you know the right way? Are you walking in the right way? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Are you saved?

Context of the Message: In this series, we’ve been studying the family of Abraham and Sarah through the Book of Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact they had on the third, fourth, and even later generations. Now we come to the second generation, the family of Isaac and Rebecca. We’re going to learn from them not only how “to” train up a child but also how “not to” train up a child.

As we just read, Isaac prayed for his wife Rebekah to get pregnant and she did but then something began to happen. Listen to verse 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” What’s going on here? 2 things. First, God’s plan of salvation was in motion. Paul explains in Romans 9  11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” God had chosen the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring his plan of salvation into the world. Even in the womb, Jacob was positioning himself to be the dominant one, according to God’s sovereign will and purpose. Don’t misunderstand: This choice/election was not unto salvation but unto service to bring Jesus into this world. Now, if you think that is unfair, think about what the Hebrews, the people of Israel, and the Jewish people endured through the centuries because of God’s sovereign choice.

Second, some of the children’s personalities were being manifested even before they were born. Listen again to 25 “And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. The older one was red and hairy, kind of wild looking. The word for “hairy” in Hebrew is “sear.” So, he is named “Esau,” a wild man. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob.” The younger one came out clutching his brother’s heel, “aqeb,” and is named Jacob, a grasper. Here’s the point: Even before they were born, one was wild and the other was trying to be the leader and they couldn’t get along.

Principle: Kids don’t enter this world as a blank slate. They come with certain personality traits, some good and some not so good. Where do they get these personality traits? From God, of course, but also through the unique combinations from your family tree. For e.g. Have you ever seen one of your kids do something that reminded you of some family member who died even before they were born or someone who is living they’ve never met? One time Nicole noticed one of our kids walking around with their hands behind their back and she said – “Look! Who does that remind you of?!” Sure enough it reminded me of my dad and this child had never met my parents at that time!

Application: Kids have certain personality traits even before they come into this world, some good and some not. Get to know each of them individually. Once you see their bent, pray and seek God’s grace and wisdom to train them in the way they should go.

The rest of their personality traits come from the environment in which they live. Listen to Genesis 25:28 again, “And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Many of us would agree that right there is one big way not to train up a child – “Don’t play favorites.” In psychology, the technical term is “differential parenting.” Unfortunately, parents do that a lot and I’m sure you would agree that it causes a lot of problems to the child who gets neglected. Why did Isaac favor Esau? The Bible says because he ate of his game. The English translation takes away the force of the original wording. In Hebrew the actual wording is “because game was in his mouth.” Meaning: The reason Isaac favored Esau was not because he was proud of his son’s hunting skills. Instead, Isaac must have been a hunter in his early days but now he could not get out there to track, kill, or clean the animal. Esau was a means to an end. Maybe Isaac is the reason Esau became a man of the field.

A Word to Parents: Nothing wrong with desiring your kids to be successful in academics, athletics, or business. But, don’t do it in order to live vicariously through them. Meaning: Your motives should not be to relive the glory days through your children. Your kids know that and so do people around you. It does more harm than good. By the way, it even negatively affects the kids you are favoring. Couple of years ago, the journal of Child Development had an article by Dr. Jennifer Jenkins, professor of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto, who researched hundreds of families and found that even the child who was favored struggled with uneasiness over the unfairness they witnessed in their parent. Some of them actually became quite antisocial. Favoritism is detrimental to the whole family, not just the neglected child.

Application: Have you been playing favorites with a child? If so, you need to seek the forgiveness of the neglected child. Have you been living vicariously through your children? You need to end that and seek God’s will for their lives. It may even be essential to seek the forgiveness of the child you have favored.

Why did Rebekah love Jacob? People have misunderstood what’s going on here. They think that each parent had picked their favorites. Isaac picked Esau and Rebekah picked Jacob. They tend to place both Isaac and Rebekah under the same guilt of “differential parenting.” Not true. If you read it properly, the Bible points the finger of guilt only towards Isaac and not towards Rebekah. If you notice, unlike a reason given for Isaac’s love for Esau, there’s no such reason given for Rebekah’s love for Jacob. Isaac is guilty not just for picking Esau to satisfy his taste buds but also for neglecting Jacob. Maybe Jacob was too soft and naïve for him. In other words, it’s not that Rebekah sided with Jacob but that she saw Jacob being neglected, saw his spiritual bent and gave him the spiritual encouragement he needed.

How do we know that Jacob had a spiritual bent? In the very next verse we hear of a very odd event. Genesis 25   29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. The Hebrew word for weary is actually “hayep” which could actually be translated “starving.” It’s a snickers commercial moment – “You are not you when you’re hungry.” 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” The actual wording in Hebrew is “Let me swallow, please, some of that red stuff, for I am starving.” Then it says, “Therefore his name was called Edom.” Again, the emphasis is on redness. In ancient times, red or reddish brown was considered to be heroic. The point is that Esau was geared towards earthly awards and approvals. Isaac should have done something about this but he didn’t. 31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” What was so special about his birthright? Whoever had the birthright would be part of God’s promise to Abraham of being a blessing to the world. Jacob wanted to be part of God’s plan of redemption through Jesus. 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. By the way, this was only half of what Jacob needed to be part of God’s plan of redemption. He had the “bekora” but he also needed the “baraka,” the blessing. Later, Rebekah helped Jacob trick his father by wearing Esau’s clothes and covering his hands and necks with goat’s hair. The Bible never condemned Jacob for doing that. Why? Because Jacob had the heart for the birthright. If it were left up to Isaac, he would have blessed Esau and really complicated God’s plan of redemption.

What happened to Esau? Hebrews 12:17-18 “…Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Isaac is to be blamed for this.

Who is responsible to train your children? You are. Here are a couple of principles:

  • Understand your child’s bent
  • Don’t play favorites
  • Encourage those with a spiritual bent
  • Generate spiritual bent in those who don’t
  • Ultimately, lead your children to Christ

Illustration: On this Mother’s Day, I think of Susanna Wesley. She married an Anglican minister by the name of Samuel. They hardly got along on anything. He couldn’t manage their finances and they were constantly indebt. They had 19 children. Ten of them died in infancy. One was crippled and another couldn’t talk until the age of six. Susanna was sick a lot. Once Samuel was even locked up for the debt. Twice their home burned down. Some say that it was probably by church members who were angry with Samuel over his messages. She tried to spend two hours a day in prayer. This was very hard to do with all the kids. So she would pull her apron over her head and pray. The kids knew not to disturb her then. Two of her sons – John Wesley and Charles Wesley became the founders of the Methodist Church.

Are you training your kids in the way they should go? Are you walking in the way you should? Are you saved?

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