Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Interesting Verse in Nehemiah

Hmm. Adrian and I have been discussing recently what our thoughts are on nursery, Sunday school, children's worship, etc. We'd really like our son in worship with us from a very young age, but we've been wondering how young. We would both love to skip the nursery and have him with us from infancy, but that's hard to do in a church that doesn't have a sound-piped crying room with a one-way mirror (we meet in a non-church facility, so not an option). We'll see. We'd like to be open, realistic, but also not put our child in nursery "just because", and certainly we don't want to remove him from the preaching of the Word if it is unnecessary. By the way, we're not making any promises on our child-rearing techniques until we've had 5 or 6 kids. But I digress. Anyway, in our devotion readings this morning, this passage in Nehemiah caught my eye:

Nehemiah 8 (ESV)

1And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest on the first day of the seventh month, brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard."

This is the only time in scripture I've seen a distinction, where those who are called to hear the Word are only those "who could understand what they heard". We have other scripture that mentions assembling all the men, women, and children. Or the New Testament passage that indicates that Timothy knew the scriptures from his infancy, or more literally in the Greek, from the womb.



Caroline said...

I was so happy to see another post so soon. I am really enjoying reading about your new life and the new life you will be bringing into this world. It is very encouraging. Keep writing!!!

5 or 6 kids? Wow, how many do you guys want?

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

I'm certainly not a Bible scholar, but could it be that Timothy knew the Word from infancy due to his parents' teachings, and not necessarily because he sat in services?

I have no answers, of course, never having dealt with that myself. My parents actually left a church when my brother turned two because the church didn't provide childcare for kids 2 and over. My mom was always a big advocate of leaving us in church when possible (even forbidding us to go to children's church! shock!), but she said AJ was so squirmy and wild and difficult to control that they felt it would be better for everyone if he remained in a nursery until he was a little older.

Susan said...

Sorry, I wasn't clear on my train of thought with Timothy. I can't for the life of me find the particular blog thread on this, but I remember having a discussion with Jessie and John Dekker about this. I would like someone who knows more Greek than the alphabet to expound on the Greek word for "know" in the passage (referring to 2 Timothy 3:15. Is it an experiential, or more like exposure? The ESV says "acquainted." NASB (usually strong on Greek, weak on English ;-D) has "known." What kind of known? I should ask Brother-Dear-in-Law :-).

Susan said...

Oh, and sorry, Caroline, forgot to answer you at first! We'd actually like a dozen or so children, should the Lord provide us with that many :-). We'll see what He has in store for us.

Caroline said...

Wow, 12 kids. I hope you will continue to blog because I would love to hear about your family life. Have you read this blog?

I think you would find it very interesting.

Samara said...

I heart large families, be they biological or not. I wonder often what our family will look like down the road. It occurred to me just yesterday that if I were my mom, #2 would be well on the way, and if I were my paternal grandma, I would not only have had a second baby already but would also be pregnant with our third- and our guy is just 14 months old. Of course, she never breastfed- in the forties and fifties "only poor people did that".

The Mr. and I are examining many of these family-related doctrinal and practical issues as well- and we are still settling in to our new community, so we haven't settled firmly into a church yet. I can't help you any on the Timothy verse, alas- "alphabet only" defines my skills in that language. Hope the nursery decorating is going well :)

Lydia said...

I would like someone who knows more Greek than the alphabet to expound on the Greek word for "know" in the passage (referring to 2 Timothy 3:15. Is it an experiential, or more like exposure? The ESV says "acquainted."

Sounds like you have been doing a lot of thinking on this passage. That is an excellent thing, in my estimation. :) I have to ask similar questions as you in relation to what this truly means. What does "know" imply? I think you raise some excellent points as to the implications of this passage.

Wish I could be of more help myself but alas, I, too, am one of those whose Greek extends about as far as the alphabet and a few Greek roots of English words. It sounds like you'll also need someone well-versed in Hebrew for the Nehemiah passage. :)

May I direct you to the book Uniting Church and Home by Eric Wallace? There is one chapter in particular entitled, "God's Heart for Generations" that may be of assistance.

I have not read the entire book myself, but perhaps it would be of some help to you and Adrian as you study out these important issues of orthopraxy. God bless you in your study.

The Bradshaws said...

Hi, Susan!

Our last three (of four) children didn't stay in the nursery much--less for each child. The last one was only in it for a few minutes one week, and never before or since! This was not the accepted norm at the church we went to then, but it was important to us.

Amazing what babies can learn: a young couple in our church has a son who turned 1yo in August; we've known them for about a year, and that boy is beautifully trained. He knows to be quiet and still in church, and does it wonderfully.

Also, our first child stayed in the nursery until she was 3 or 4yo, probably, and training her to stay in church was WAAAAAY more difficult than it was dealing with the others at younger ages/from infancy. And at times, she and either my husband or myself had to miss church almost every other week because of illness picked up in the nursery. (The pediatrician of someone we know practically forbade them from taking their children to the church nursery, claiming that to be the worst place for picking up illness!)

Didn't mean for this to be so long, but thought you might could benefit from real-life stories!

Jessie said...

Yes, I remember talking about this subject with you before online... Wasn't it brought on by a discussion about VBS?? Or am I thinking of something else? I know whatever it is I'm thinking on was here on your blog...

Anyway, fron my extensive experience as a parent, you know I am well-qualified to recommend that you follow my example and keep your children out of the nursery as much as possible. I think it trains children to expect to be entertained constantly during church and that it is unreasonable to assume that one day they will all of a sudden "be old enough to sit still in church now." When they've spent their whole life being loud and noisy playing with toys in a room with other children, it's just a hard and painful adjustment for them to have to make.
I've heard the argument (from very respected sources) that dropping your children off in nursery shows them that Mommy and Daddy put such a high value on the church service that they are willing to part with their beloved babies in order to concentrate more fully during the worship service--- but I seriously doubt whether a child who is being placed in a nursery has the mental capacity to understand that reasoning.
That being said, there is some debate as to how much a young child really is able to understand of a church service. All I can say about that is, if you can keep your child reasonably quiet (ie, not making long, loud cries-- IMO, an occasional peep is not to bad; at least from babies) so they are not distracting others, you have the promise of God that His Word will not return void, and that faith comes by hearing His Word, and that He will bless your children; as well as the examples of Timothy, Samuel, and other children who did know the Lord early-- all as good encouragement for keeping those little ones with you during the service. And I would think that Junior would learn more about the value Mommy and Daddy place on worship by actually seeing Mommy and Daddy during worship. Children learn by example, you know.
Anyway, those are my thoughts, and we'll see how I act on them in the future, if I should ever have a cause to. (Pary that I do!!)

Well, you see that I didn't e-mail you this weekend (yet!) like I said I would! I'm sorry! And I don't have near as good an excuse as you do. Just believe me, it's not because I don't want to talk to you!! Lord willing, I *will* talk to you soon-- or at least write to you.

Have a Happy Lord's Day!
(I need to make some greeting cards along those lines, and market them to reformed Presbyterians!! I could sell a potential 52 cards per person per year!!)

Jessie said...

I'm sorry- I just reread what I wrote and it sounds like I believe God's fulfillment of His promises to parents are dependent on their keeping children quiet during services... that's not what I meant. Just that you know you have His promise to bless your children as an encouragement for you to have them under the preaching of His Word-- and that there shouldn't be any reason for them not to be in the service unless they truly are a distraction.

Zan said...

We've just started a nursery in our church. Before this, every parent was responsible for their own child. I have to say that the whole service was mom's and dad's walking in and out during the whole service. It wasn't very distracting because they were quiet, but I got zero from the service. I never got to hear a sermon. The elders would hunt me down to serve me communion, but I felt like I shouldn't be taking it because I was not worshiping. I was taking my boys in and out and in and out to discipline them so they would sit still. Church was not worship for me or my husband. It was very frustrating.

Now, that there is a nursery with mom's rotating nursery duty, I actually can sit through a service and prepare for communion.

Yesterday, was the first Sunday I took Owen to church. I was fortunate that he slept through the whole service. George is 3 and can sit through the service, now, but Harry cannot. If Owen had woke up to feed, I would have to go into the bathroom to nurse him. We don't have a place in the nursery to nurse him and I wouldn't feel comfortable because daddy's are in and out of there throughout the service.

I think that you have to work with what the church is able to provide. The pastor's wife decided a nursery was necessary because of all the babies (children under 3). The parent's weren't sitting though the service at all. I think young kids (3 and under) should have a place to go. I feel different about older children.

One more thing! Will people please leave the back rows for families with little children?! Why is it so necessary for people to sit in the back who have teens? That leaves the front rows for me and my kids. I feel like I am putting a show on for everyone, juggling babies. It's very embarrassing. Within 5 minutes I am soaked in sweat from the anxiety of trying to keep the kids quiet and seated. My husband is as well!

Becky Miller said...

It definitely takes a lot of work at home to train your kids to sit in church. Giving them practice time during family worship seems essential - otherwise, when do they have time to practice sitting still and listening? The tomato staking ideas (at raising godly tomatoes) are really helpful.

Also, have you read Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham? Excellent book. Highly recommend.

kalipay said...

The contemporary "church" set up is not conducive to family involvement nor father leadership whatsoever. Having to look at the nursery-or-not question is unfortunate.

That Nehemiah verse really is the only place that such a division of age or understanding is presented. Earlier on in the OT when "the Law" was being read to the people of Israel it was very specific that whole families, wives and children, were to be included. However at yearly feasts and celebrations whole families weren't required to go up.

There isn't much specific discussion in the NT. You are familiar with the passages discussing the "church in your house"? More than a few times whole households heard the Gospel together and received it together as well.

What have been some of your more recent thoughts on this issue?

Anonymous said...

Okay, brother-dear-in-law coming to the rescue (?). I am sorry I have not kept up with the comments. I will try to do better in future. I will assume that you meant 2 Timothy 3:15 and not 1 Timothy 3:15, which, ironically, also has the word "know" in it (same root, even). The word used in 2 Timothy 3:15 is the standard word for knowledge. It does not imply anything about how the knowledge was obtained (that info has to be gleaned from the context). I think I should be wary of using the passage to prove that children should be in church (although I agree they should be in church). The emphasis here is on the fact that Timothy's long exposure to the truth of the Word is enabling him both to know the way of salvation, and to be kept from the false teachers, despite his youth. The text simply does not say how Timothy came by his knowledge of the Word. It also does not say whether this knowledge is experiential *versus* mere acquaintance. I would, however, say that Paul is probably having Psalm 119 in the back of his mind as he's writing ("Your Word have I hid in my heart"). So, I think that Timothy knows it in every way that's important.

Eltinwe said...

You have lighted upon a topic near and dear to my heart here.

First, I think others have decently covered the meaning of Timothy, and I am happy to merely concur with the idea that Timothy had been exposed, in one way or another, to the gospel from long before he could fully understand it.

It never ceases to amaze me how much small children really do understand, though. You'll note that in the gospels (I'm too lazy to look up where) John "the Baptist" actually recognizes Jesus while they are BOTH still unborn. I firmly believe that God works even in unborn children, and that children CAN be be saved even before they are born - on the same basis as you and I are, not on the basis of them being innocent.

In light of that, and in light of the covenant being not only with believers, but with their children also, I have made EVERY effort to keep Carina in worship whenever possible. As an infant, we just held her, and she was quiet and cooperative, except when she wanted to nurse - which I allowed a few times without leaving when I knew she was genuinely hungry.

As she got older, there were a few months when each week she ended up in the nursery, but each week STARTED with her in worship with us, and after only a short time of that, we realized we were being played, and started spanking her instead of putting her into the nursery. That rapidly put an end to her misbehavior, and she now (at age four) takes "notes", tracing dot-to-dot letters of the scripture passage, or listens for certain repeated phrases she can understand, if the sermon is suitable.

I can't say I'm entirely pleased with the current status of things, largely due to our extended family's behavior and willingness to distract her instead of encourage her to listen, but even if she has some distraction, to my mind it is MUCH better than removing her from the opportunity to participate as much as she can in corporate worship.

I think it is imperative for parents to teach their children as much as humanly possible, to participate to the best of their ability, and restricting their time in worship instead of disciplining their time in worship is a selfish and irresponsible act. (With the exception that in some children, there is a brief period between the willingness to cooperate and the ability to do so, particularly in churches with long sermons.)

/end rant