After my discussion of Joseph as an example of a very godly covenant youth, I consider with you Moses, an unusual child of God, who lived about 400 years after Joseph. I have written about Moses in the forum articles, and do not intend to repeat what I said in those articles. In fact, most of what I discussed in those articles were events in Moses’ life as a grown man. And this series of articles is about youth.
In Exodus 2:2 we are told that the parents of Moses saw when he was born that Moses was a “goodly child”, and so they hid him for three months rather than give him to Pharaoh’s police to have him killed according to the king’s command. The mention of Moses as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11 repeats what Exodus says: the parents saw that he was a “proper” child. But “proper” is the same as “goodly”, and the Revised Version translates the word in Hebrews as “goodly”.
Many guesses have been made about the meaning of “goodly”. Some say the meaning is that Moses was an exceptionally beautiful baby. Others say that at his birth Moses already possessed abilities that could only be done by children older than he. They speculate that Moses was already able to walk, or to speak; or that his understanding was beyond that of a baby. Some even speculate that he had a halo above his head.
The Bible does not tell us and we may not speculate or curiously inquire into what God has chosen not to reveal. It is, however, clear from the actions of Moses’ parents that something about the baby made them sure that this child had a special work in God’s covenant.
There is one expression in the narrative of Hebrews 11 that has struck my attention and forced me to ponder why it should be included in the Biblical narrative. The text in Hebrew 11 tells us that Moses’ choice for God’s people was “when he was come to years”.
The expression most probably did not refer to Moses’ physical and mental maturity. In our churches, generally, young people, born and raised in the church, make confession of faith when they “come to years”. That is, they have come to physical and mental maturity. We interpret that expression to mean, therefore, that God has so determined that covenant children come to years when they are physically, mentally, and spiritually mature. They are adults because they are ready to leave father and mother’s sheltering care. They are adults because they have attained such maturity that they are able to think and act for themselves without the guidance of covenant parents.
The spiritual development of a covenant child is a wonderful work of God. It comes with physical and mental maturity.
In the first five years of a child’s life, he is so dependent on his parents that he can do nothing by himself and needs constant help. Also, he depends on them to teach him what he has to know. And, in the child’s mind, what the parents say is truth, not to be challenged. When little children are taught to pray, the parents tell them what to pray. When they ask, “Why must we speak to someone whom we cannot even see ?”, the parents assure them that God, though invisible, hears what they say. They accept that without question.
This continues when they start school, for whatever their teachers say has to be true, because “Teacher said so”. The parents have a greater task if their children have to go to public schools, for teachers tell children things that are not true. Parents must know what their children are learning and must correct any wrong ideas by pointing to what God says.
As they develop into their early teens, most children begin to think that they can now make their own decisions and no longer need the guidance and discipline of parents. But deep down in their hearts children of the covenant know they need parents yet for a while. And while they may argue with parents and claim to be “old enough to decide for myself ”, they know they are not, and the struggle to be independent when they are still dependent is a large part of the difficulties early teenagers have. I have always found the most difficult catechism classes and children at home to teach are those in their early teens.
But by mid-teens young people come to a point of maturity. Maturity means that in their development spiritually and intellectually, they receive and examine what they have been taught, not mechanically, but because they have thought it over, compared it with Scripture and come to their own conclusion as to whether what they are taught is true or false. In the church, they are ready to make confession of faith. They not only believe what they do because they were taught this by parents and teachers, but because they have found what they were taught as true. They themselves have compared their knowledge with the Word of God. They know it is true, not because mom and dad have said so, not because the preacher has said so, but because they have compared it with Scripture and found that it is taught in the Bible.
So, by the time young people reach their late teens or early twenties, they are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to make confession of faith and take their place in God’s church as responsible and eager contributing members of the church. We could say, “When so and so came to years he made his choice for the people of God – as Moses did”. Moses made his choice for the people of God when he came to years. So do we!
Confession of faith is a very important event in the life of a Christian youth. It is so important that I would like to discuss it in some detail. But it is better to do so in another article.
Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 42