The Education of Christian Children

Numbers 4:1-7

1When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan,  the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan,  from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.

So Joshua called together the twelve men  he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan.   Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign  among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”


                According to the Talmud, the central text of mainstream Judaism, a man matures through three stages of life: childhood, early adulthood, and mature adulthood. In the childhood-adolescence period, a man lives for his parents.  In the early adulthood period, he lives for himself.  Then in the mature adulthood, he lives for his children.

                Examine the people in these stages carefully.  In the stage of childhood, they constantly strive to get attention and please their parents by acting cutely.  Then as they awaken in early adulthood, their whole attention is focused on their self.  Finally, as they enter mature into adulthood, all of their attention is focused to their children. 


                Especially to those of us who have immigrated, all of us would claim in unison that we have immigrated to the States for our children’s future.  But in all honesty, when the direct question, “How do you plan to raise your children?” is asked, no one has any concrete or specific answer.  No one has a very defined or sound philosophy on raising the children.   In other words, we do not have a definite world view.

                In this context, the Israelis are a good model for us to consider.  The educational belief system of the Israelis is a good example and guide for us to learn.

                The Bible we have is a record of Israel’s history.  But the Bible is not just for them.  The Lord God has chosen the Israeli to be an example for all of us.


                The history of Israel is indeed “a history of miracles” as Toynbee, the historian, has pointed out.  There is no other people who have gone through as much turmoil and persecution as the Israelis.  

                Yet they have raised their children admirably as they weathered all that turmoil and persecution.  As we all know, they have produced many great and influential people in every professional field.

Indeed it is an amazing feat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What made these Israelis become such successful people?  A historian said, “There is a boiling passion in the veins of Israelis that cannot be imitated by any other people.” 

He further explained that this passion supported by two pillars that uphold their existence.   One pillar is education and the other is their faith.  In other words, their passion for education and faith have sustained and made the Israelis thrive to become what they are throughout history. 


                Today’s scripture shows that very passion.  First, we are going to look into their passion for education.  In the modern view of this pedagogy  there are three essential ingredients. 

                First, there must be an opportunity to teach.  Second, emblematic tools are needed.  Third, it must be repeated consistently.  Complete and effective teaching happens with these three ingredients.

                An amazing thing is that such a modern principle of teaching can be found in Israeli education system from over 3,000 years ago.  Then, let us look into the education system of Israelis.


                First, they taught their children every opportunity they had.

첫째, 그들은 모든 기회를 통해 자녀들을 교육했습니다.


                The Israelis have various holidays that they celebrate.  The Passover, Sukkoth, Shavuot are examples.  In that, the Israelis used each holiday as an opportunity to educate their children. 


                On Sukkoth, Feast of Tabernacles, the parents would take their children to the field and set up a tent.  They spent a week with their children.  If a child asks, “Dad, why are we spending our time in the tent, instead of the comfort of our home?”  The father would respond, “Our ancestors set up the tent like this in the desert and meet the Lord God.” 


                In Passover, parents would wake their children in the middle of the night.  When the children are disturbed of their sweet dreams, they would protest, “Why are you waking me up in the middle of the night?”  The father would answer, “On the very first Passover, our ancestors were to leave Egypt, so they stayed up all night witnessing the power of the Lord and getting ready to go to the Promised Land: Canaan.”

                You must know this; to the Israelis, the holidays are not a mere day off from work.  The holidays are an opportunity to teach and educate children.


                A deacon came over to his pastor and asked, “Pastor, when is Passover?”  The pastor asked, “You want to know it, because…?”  “My child is asking when Passover is, but I do not know the exact day.  I am certain that it is in June but I was not certain of the day.” 

                We call this type of person a man of abundant ignorance.    Just because “Passover” in Korean is “Yuwoljul”, which is a homonym for 6th Month Day, does not mean it is in the 6th month, does it?  Anyway, let me clear the air.   That deacon is not one of the deacons at our church. 


                The Passover is the last plague and the Lord God poured down on the Pharaoh  of Egypt through Moses.  It was the plague that killed all first-borns.  It caused death to all the first-born children, from the son of the Pharaoh to the first-borns of all animals. 

                In this time, the Israelis are told to apply the blood of a lamb on the sides and tops of the doorframes in their houses in order to differentiate them from the Egyptian households.  Then the plague passed over that household.    Thus “Passover” came to be the name of the Israeli holiday.

                “Yuwol유월” literally means to jump over, or pass over.  If we are to reference the seasons, it is in a spring season.  Passover is a holiday in the spring.  It is not a holiday in the 6th month. 


                Look at verse 1 of today’s scripture.  “When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan…”  As soon as the Israelis crossed over the river, the first thing Joshua did is erect a monument with twelve stones.  What does the monument declare?  Let us read verses 6-7 as we contemplate on the meaning of these verses.

                “to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.  이것이 너희 중에 표증이 되리라 후일에 너희의 자손들이 물어 이르되 돌들은 무슨 뜻이냐 하거든 그들에게 이르기를 요단 물이 여호와의 언약궤 앞에서 끊어졌나니 언약궤가 요단을 건널 때에 요단 물이 끊어졌으므로 돌들이 이스라엘 자손에게 영원히 기념이 되리라 하라 하니라.”


                Look, when the ark of covenant entered the river, water was cut off. Israelis crossed the river on dry ground.  They did not just rejoice the miracle, they thought of ways to teach their experience to their children.  They took every opportunity in life to teach and educate their children.


                We must stop thinking that school is the only place of education.  The place where our children spend most of their time is in your homes.  Thus the best teacher to your children is you, the parents.  The best classroom is your home.  Each and every word and action will influence your children. 

                What is your attitude towards your life in perspective to educating your children?  Look at the Israelis.  They do not miss their opportunity to teach their children.  Whether it is a holiday, ceremony, a social event, or the simple time you spend together, they did not waste their opportunity to teach.  Every moment in life is an opportunity to educate your children.


                Second, they used symbolic things to educate their children.

둘째로그들은 상징적인 것을 활용하여 자녀들을 교육했습니다.


                In educating children, we see that multimedia is often employed.  Better than just hearing instructions with our ears, showing them and letting them touch and feel in combination are more effective.


                Look at today’s scripture.  They did not want to let their children just hear about the miracles of the Lord.  They set up a monument.  When their children saw this monument, the children asked, “what does this mean?”

                Then they will point to the monument and explain to their children, “Long ago, when our ancestors were crossing the Jordan in exodus from Egypt, as the ark of covenant entered the water, the river split into halves and it became dry.  Thus the whole nation of Israelis walked across.  It is the power of our Lord God.”  As you can see, they built a symbolic object to teach their children. 


                As I’ve said, every one of you is a teacher.  There is no class more important than home.  There is no teacher who is more important than a father and a mother.  The duty of educating our children lies with us.  Given that, what will you teach to the children you love?

                It is general knowledge that there is no other race more passionate than Koreans in educating children.  Korean parents would do anything in the name of educating our children.   But you must know that although having a passion for education is very important, the content and the method are more important.


                Rockefeller was the richest man in the world at one time.  He founded and funded hundreds of churches and universities.  He is not just a self-made rich man.  Wouldn’t you like to know how his parents raised him?

                His parents did not dwell on the graces he was getting.  His parents did not teach him how to make money or leave him with a great monetary inheritance.  They only taught him to live a life in faith and let faith be their inheritance. 

                On Wednesday two weeks ago, for the dedication service of ordained deacons, pastor Shim Kwanshik mentioned Rockefeller as an example for the correct mindset deacons should have.  Out of the seven principles that Rockefeller received as inheritance from his parents, he told us four of them.

1.       Never forget to tithe.

2.       Sit in the front row when attending church services.

3.       Serve your church diligently.

4.       Do not give heartache to your pastor.

As you can see, not a single one of them is related with making money.  But when he lived following the principles of his parents, he became the richest man.


                Generally speaking, the inheritance recorded in the Will and Last Testament is the epitome of a dying person’s collective experience, wisdom, and truth acquired throughout life.  It might be the most salient thing that one’s decedents may remember.  Giving a life lesson in the form of your last words is meaningful.

                In continuation of that thought, the content and method of education is indeed very important.  You must teach your children with experiences in faith so your children can see with their own eyes in your home.  We must educate our children with the Lord God’s grace, love, and omnipotent power that we have personally met and experienced. This should be taught with symbolic events. 


                Third, they educated their children to have faith.

셋째로, 그들은 자녀들에게 신앙을 교육했습니다.


                In a way, education and faith is not a relationship that we can teach separately.  Look at the Israelis.  The content of their education is faith.  And the method of leaving faith as their inheritance is also education. 

                What does verse 6-7 tell us they did?  They wanted to teach their children the mighty power of the Lord God through the event of crossing the Jordan River.

                Verse 21 and down also repeats the teaching story again.  The Israelis repeatedly and constantly  told the same lessons to increase the effect of their education.  According to penologists, one of the most important aspects of education is the principle of repetition. 

                Why did Jesus tell us to share the Eucharist again and again?  It is to teach us and for us to not forget the reason why the Lord has bore the Cross.  An important aspect in training within education is practice.  It is repetitive practice that makes education more effective.

                Even in a sermon, important things are repeated numerous times to emphasize it.  I want you to know that if you hear some stories again and again in different sermons, do not cast it aside by thinking “That is an old story; I have heard it many times.”  Instead, think of it as, “it must be very important, so he is repeating it again.”   That way you’ll get more out of it.

                Look at the Israelis.  As soon as they crossed the river, they erected a monument with twelve stones.  After that, when they arrived at Gilgal, they erected another monument.  Then their descendants will ask, “Why is this monument erected here?”  whenever they see that monument.

                Then, each and every time, they will praise the Lord and teach their children the mighty work and power of the Lord God.  “When our ancestors came to this promised land, Canaan, it was possible because of the Lord’s guidance and help.”  They will teach that to their generations of children to come. 


                All our children will grow and leave our homes, sooner or later.  Then, with whose help will they live?  It is the Lord God’s.  When the hands of parents cannot reach them, the Mighty Lord, the Lord of Wisdom, will guard and protect them.  Knowing that, we must educate and teach them to have faith in the Lord God before they leave our homes. 

                The Jewish book of wisdom, the Talmud, also has the following words, “A good man leaves an inheritance for the poor, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for his sinful children.       But the wise leave faith as their inheritance to their children. 


                Brethren, what do you want to leave your children?  Proverbs 14:26 reads, ‘Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children, it will be a refuge.  여호와를 경외하는 자에게는 견고한 의뢰가 있나니 자녀들에게 피난처가 있으리라”   Life in an ocean cannot always avoid storms.  What will your children set their sights on when they are in the storms of life?  Do you still say that you have immigrated for your children?  Then the first thing you must teach your children is to have faith.


                Look at the Israelis.  They use every opportunity in life to teach their children.  They teach their children by using symbolic things to enhance education.  First and foremost, they taught their children to have faith. 

                This is Children’s Day (a Korean National Holiday).  The Bible tells us that children are a heritage from the Lord God and a gift given to us.  Use every opportunity you have to teach them effectively, for them to have faith.  Then they will live a blessed life of never leaving the teachings of the Lord. 




The Charge

                Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him (Psalms 127:3)  What will you leave to your children?  Foolish men leave wealth, good men leave knowledge, but the wise leave faith to their children. 

                Live your life teaching your children to have faith through an effective education.  Then they will live a blessed life of never leaving the teachings of the Lord even in their old age.