One day we all are going to stand before the judgment seat and answer to the Lord for how we raised our children. And in that moment, none of us will be able to offer excuses or blame anyone else. Therefore, we have to examine ourselves today, asking: Have we brought up our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Have we modeled for them a life of love and reverence for God?
I remember playing outside as a boy and hearing my mother pray for me from the third floor of our house. Her example remains vivid in my memory. Later, when Gwen and I were bringing up our children, we did the same, praying for our kids according to God’s Word: “Lord, make our sons as oaks beside the waters of life. And make our daughters as polished stones in your palace. Keep them all from the schemes of the wicked one” (see Isaiah 61:3 and Psalm 144:12)
Every Christian parent has high hopes for his child. I see this regularly in our congregation, as parents bring their children forward to be dedicated to the Lord. Our pastoral staff prays for God’s love and protection over these little ones. Then we anoint them with oil and ask the Holy Ghost to put a wall of fire around them.
But occasionally, I can’t help wondering: How many of those precious children are going to end up in the devil’s clutches—on drugs, into crime—because their mom or dad got careless about the spiritual atmosphere in their home? Will they end up in ruin because their parents were wrapped up in their own problems, never giving them attention or proper discipline?
Maybe you’re a parent who hurts because your grown son or daughter no longer serves the Lord. Or, perhaps you’re heartbroken because your youngster is hooked on drugs or alcohol. You’ve seen your once-tender child grow bitter, hard and lost.
This message is not meant to condemn you. No one can take back his or her past. But I do have a question for you. As you look back on your parenting years, ask yourself: Were you a true guardian over your home? Did you cover your children in prayer daily? Or were you too busy? Did you allow your kids to intimidate you?
That is all in the past now. Yet there remains something you can do: You still have a calling to pray diligently for your child’s salvation. That’s right, you can make up in prayer today what you might have missed in past years. You can still seek God’s face, bathe your loved one in prayer, and call down Holy Ghost conviction on him to bring him to the cross.
Scripture makes it very clear that if you raise your children on the authority of God’s Word, they will not depart from that training in their later years. They may veer away from it for a while—even for years—but ultimately it will bring them back to truth. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
The Bible offers a word of hope to all parents who grieve over a backslidden child. Here is a covenant promise that every parent should memorize. It applies both to children who have been lost and to those presently under your care: “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses” (Isaiah 44:1-4).
This word of promise to Israel is also meant for us today. Its words of comfort are given to all who are chosen (see verse 1)—meaning, all who are in Christ.
The Lord begins by telling us in verses 1 and 2, “I am the Lord who made you, and I know your pain. I am going to help you now. You don’t have to fear.” The word for Jesurun in this verse means righteous one. In other words, God makes these promises to His righteous ones—glorious, binding, covenant promises. The promises are:
The beginning of true revival comes when a godly company of believers takes on the Lord’s burden for a church or a city trapped in sin. This godly company fasts and prays, pleading with God to begin rebuilding the walls and gates that will protect His people from every enemy.
Once Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt and its gates set up, gatekeepers and watchmen were appointed to every house. Walls and gates are no good without gatekeepers who know what can or can’t be allowed in. Thus, Nehemiah says, “It came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed” (Nehemiah 7:1).
Notice that these gatekeepers were not strictly priests. They were laymen—musicians, porters, people from all walks of life. And they were instructed: “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them” (verse 3). God was saying to His people, “My house is going to be a place of light, with no darkness allowed in. Let everyone and everything that enters here be an open book, subject to the light of My Word.”
I say to every elder reading this message, including the elders at Times Square Church: Don’t ever allow yourself to be blinded to God’s Word by your close ties to any minister. You have been appointed by God to be a keeper at the gates of His house. And if anyone brings a gospel into your church that is not according to Scripture, it is your duty to lovingly tell that preacher he is wrong.
As gatekeepers, we are to guard the doors of God’s house in humility—through fasting, prayer and loving concern expressed through the fear of God.
Nehemiah said, “Appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house” (Nehemiah 7:3). According to Nehemiah, guardians were to be appointed not just to the gates of the holy city, but to every home as well. In short, the heads of every household—that is, the parents—were responsible for everything that came into their home.
The book of Nehemiah offers a vivid picture of what happens to the church in times of ruin and apostasy. When Nehemiah and 43,000 other Jewish patriots returned to Jerusalem, they found the city lying in total ruin. The walls were torn down and the gates removed, so the inhabitants had no protection from their enemies . . . and a whole parade of antagonists plundered the city as they pleased.
These enemies had been given total dominion because of Israel’s backsliding and disobedience to God’s Word. Nehemiah wrote, “Because of our sins: also they [our enemies] have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress” (Nehemiah 9:37).
Jerusalem here is a type of the church of Jesus Christ today. Like the Israelites, many Christians are under sin’s dominion and the iniquity in God’s house has brought on distress and bondage, spreading poison throughout the Body of Christ.
How has this happened? The walls of truth have been torn down—those protective barriers that are erected when believers stand on God’s Word. Because of our sin and compromise, those protective gates are falling, leaving multitudes of Christians open to Satan’s power.
Yet Nehemiah here represents God’s plan of restoration. This man knew that for any true revival to take place, there had to be a safe, protective wall of truth surrounding God’s people.
So, did Nehemiah stride into the wall-less city calling for a revival of supernatural manifestations? No. The only manifestations seen after Nehemiah’s arrival were men and women with picks and shovels in their hands. They were doing the hard work of rebuilding the city’s walls and restoring its gates. And Nehemiah was leading it all.
This work of restoration began the moment Nehemiah took on the Lord’s burden over the ruin in His house. When Nehemiah saw the affliction and reproach God’s people were suffering, he fell to his knees, crying, “The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).
What did Nehemiah do next? He fasted and prayed night and day, confessing Israel’s sins. “It came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (verse 4).
“There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (John 2:1-5, ESV).
Most Christians know that the wedding at Cana was where Jesus performed His first miracle: “The first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory” (2:11). Christ had just begun His ministry and already had a small following of disciples. Now, by working this wonder, He revealed His glory to the world in spectacular fashion.
Yet, the miracle Jesus performed here also contains deep significance for the church beyond that time and place. Verse 3 contains a powerfully symbolic phrase: “When the wine ran out.” Throughout the New Testament, wine is associated with the manifest presence of God through the Holy Spirit. Paul evokes this when he writes, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, ESV).
What does it mean for the people of God to “run out of wine”? In this scene, wine was at the center of the wedding celebration, poured out freely to be served to the invited guests. The scene was a picture of a joyful people to whom God’s Spirit flows freely. But a need arose because the wine had run out and the people needed it replenished to sustain their joy.
As Christians, we all have the Holy Spirit present in us. Yet it is also true that we have to be filled with the Spirit continually. Every one of us experiences an ebb and flow in our walk with Christ. The low times do not mean His Spirit has left us, but it does mean we’re called back again and again to quench the deep thirst that the Spirit Himself puts within us. As children of God, we need spiritual food that only He can give—food that empowers us to love others as He loves, to lead a holy life that pleases Him, and to speak His Word with boldness to others.