Teach your children well

The calling of Abraham and its enduring legacy has become one of the most influential and enduring events in world history

Jewish boy reads 521 (photo credit: GIL COHEN MAGEN/REUTERS)
Jewish boy reads 521
The calling of Abraham and its enduring legacy has become one of the most influential and enduring events in world history. Through this single individual, God set in motion a redemption process which would transform the world. No wonder the book of Galatians refers to those who have set their trust in the God of Abraham and his Messiah as “sons of Abraham.”
The book of Genesis gives us an important key to understand the unique calling of Abraham. It records that God said: “For I have known him [Abraham], in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Genesis 18:19) One major ingredient for Abraham to succeed – to see all that “He has spoken to him” coming to fruition – would reside in the education and teaching of his children and the generations after them. If Abraham would instruct “his children and his household after him” to walk in the ways and principles of God, this would ensure the fulfillment of the promises which God had spoken over Abraham’s life.
Consequently, the education and equipping of youth has become one of the pillars of Judaism until this day. Other passages of the Bible strongly encourage the training of children. In fact, the most central confession of the Jewish people, the Shema prayer, relates to the education of children.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) In the Jewish home it was mainly the father’s task to teach the children about the Bible, but even beyond the home, very early in Israel’s history a system of learning and education was established. In the times of Jesus, all of Israel was covered by a network of schools. This emphasis on education was so strong that according to the Talmud a city which did not have a school for children “should be either destroyed or excommunicated.”
Some Talmudic sages even declared that part of the reason why Jerusalem fell was because of the city’s “neglect of the education of its children.” Already in Jesus’s times school attendance for children was compulsory, and by the age of 10 a child would have studied most of the books of the Bible.
According to Bible scholar Alfred Edersheim, the starting point of a child’s education was at age five to six and would commence with the study of the Book of Leviticus. Paul relates to this in his letter to his Jewish co-worker Timothy, saying “that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures...” (II Timothy 3:15) This ancient culture of learning from a young age is most certainly part of the intellectual success story of the Jewish people. It is no coincidence that 30 percent of all Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to Jews and that Israel today leads the world in patents granted per capita. Nor is this due to a mere intellectual advantage, but it is based on a biblical culture of study and learning.
This emphasis on education and learning also has become critical to having a long-term impact on developing nations.
Investing in education rather than just mere food programs empowers the recipients to take charge of their lives and to uplift families and even whole communities.
This should inspire all of us as parents today, in particular fathers, not only to invest in the academic advancement of our children but to make our homes a place of learning and studying of the word of God. It will shape every child for the rest of their lives.
Indeed, the book of Proverbs says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Dr. Bühler is executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org