But Reuben replied: "Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you would not listen. Now we must account for his blood!"
Genesis 15:13, 14). But it is not merely a fact in the historical preparation for what he was bringing to pass; a link in the chain of events leading on to Christ. We must look upon it as part of a series of types foreshadowing gospel truths. The famine was a step towards the promised possession, and has its counterpart in the work of the Holy Spirit. It represents the spiritual want of man; conviction of sin (John 16:8; cf. Romans 7:9), leading to know the power of Christ's work (Matthew 18:11).
I. The first step is CONSCIOUSNESS OF FAMINE; that a man's life is more than meat; more than a supply of bodily wants. It is realizing that he has wants beyond the present life; that in living for time he has been following a shadow. This knowledge is not natural to us. Bodily hunger soon makes itself felt, but the soul's need does not; and until it is known, the man may be "poor and blind and naked," and yet suppose that he is "rich and increased with goods."
II. WE CANNOT OF OURSELVES SUPPLY THAT WANT. Gradually we learn how great it is. We want to still the accusing voice of conscience; to find a plea that shall avail in judgment; to see clearly the way of life that we may not err therein. In vain we look one on another, seeking comfort in the good opinion of men, in their testimony to our upright life. In vain we try to satisfy ourselves, by promises to do better, or by offerings of our substance or of our work. In vain is it to seek rest in unbelief, or in the persuasion that in some way all will be right. The soul cannot thus find peace. There is a voice which at times will make itself heard - "all have sinned" - thou hast sinned.
III. GOD HAS PROVIDED BREAD. "I have heard that there is corn in Egypt" (cf. Romans 10:18), answers to the gospel telling of the bread of life. As to this we mark -
1. It was provided before the want arose (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). The gospel tells us of what has already been done, not of a gift to come into existence on certain conditions. The ransom of our souls has been paid. We have to believe and take (Revelation 22:17).
2. How faith works. They must go for that food which was ready for them. To take the bread of life must be a real earnest act, not a listless assent. The manna which was to be gathered, the brazen serpent to which the sick were to look, the command to the impotent "Rise, take up thy bed and walk," all show that it is not enough merely to wish, there must be the effort of faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a law of the spiritual kingdom. As natural laws regulate results within their, domain, so spiritual results must be sought in accordance with spiritual laws.
3. It is our Brother who has made provision for us. This is our confidence. He waits to reveal himself when in humility and emptiness we come to him, and to give us plenty (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22). - M.
I. How MAY WE SIN AGAINST A CHILD?
Do not sin against the child.
I. WHAT IS THIS WHICH HAS BEEN SAID TO US? "Do not sin against the child." This warning may be suitable for every one of us without exception, for those who are not parents, and who are not teachers of the young are nevertheless bound to remember that they are in a commonwealth of which young people make up a very considerable part. Little eyes are so quick to observe the actions of those who are grown up, that adults should be careful what they do. I would say to every man who is giving full swing to his passions, if nothing else will check you, at any rate pause awhile when yonder fair-haired girls and lisping children are gazing upon you. If you care not for angels, stop for the sake of yon blue-eyed boy. Let not the leprosy of your sin pollute your offspring more than must be. To the parent the text speaks with a still small voice, to which I trust none of us will be deaf. "Do not sin against the child" — against your own dear child! Yet how many parents do so! If, as I now speak, unconverted parents will be compelled to acknowledge the truthfulness of the accusations I shall lay against them, I hope they will be led to deep and true repentance. There are many parents who neglect altogether the religious education of their children. I remember a woman who was converted at an advanced age, who had been left years before a widow with many children; she was a most exemplary, moral, and industrious woman, and earning her living by most laborious work, she yet managed to bring up all her family, and settle them in a suitable manner; but after her conversion I think I never saw more bitter tears than those which she shed when she said, "I took care to feed them and clothe their bodies, but I never thought of their souls. Alas! for me, I knew no better; but alas! for them, I left the chief thing undone. The other day I spoke to my eldest son about the things of God, and he told me religion was all a farce, he did not regard a word I said; and well," said she, "might he be an infidel when his mother never said a word by which he could have been led to be a believer." Words were spoken by way of comfort to her, but like Rachel she refused to be comforted, because she said, and said truly, her great opportunity had been thrown away. The best time of effort for a mother had been allowed to pass away unused. Her harvest was passed, and her summer was ended, and her children were not saved. Parents who teach their children to sing the silly, frivolous, and perhaps licentious songs, are sacrificing them to Moloch. Shame is it when from a father's lips the boy hears the first oath, and learns the alphabet of blasphemy. There are crowds of parents upon whose head the blood of their children will certainly descend, because they have launched them on the sea of life with the rudder set towards the rocks, with a false chart, a deceitful compass, and every other appliance for securing eternal shipwreck. The text further bears with equal severity upon the preacher. I feel it chides and chastens me. Preaching is full often too obscure for children; the words are too long, the sentences too involved, the matter too mysterious. Sacred simplicity should be so cultivated by the ambassador of Christ, that lads and lasses should hear intelligently under a good shepherd, and the least lamb should be able to find food. But we must push on. I want the Church of God, and especially this church, to attend carefully to the next few remarks. When teachers and others are earnest about the conversion of children, and some of them are converted, they then come into relationship with the Church, and too often the Lord's people need the advice, "Do not sin against the child." How can a Church so offend? It can do so by not believing in the conversion of children at all.
II. WHO SAYS THIS TO US?
1. Nature says it first. The instincts of humanity cry, "Do not sin against the child. It is but a child; it is little; sin not against it."
2. Experience adds its voice to nature, "Do not sin against the child." Hundreds of parents have been brought with sorrow to the grave through the natural result of their own failures and trespasses in reference to their children. They taught the lesson of sin, and the children, having learned it, practised it upon their parents. If you would not stuff your pillow with thorns, do not sin against the child.
3. Conscience repeats the same advice; that inward monitor ceases not to remind us of what is due to God and to His peculiar charge, the weak and feeble. Conscience tells us plainly that we must not sport with responsibilities so vast.
4. The Church adds her voice to that of conscience. "Do not sin against the child," for the children are the Church's hope. Bring them to Christ, that He may put His hands upon them and bless them, that they may become the future teachers and preachers, the pillars and defence of Christ's Church below.
5. God Himself, speaking from the excellent glory, this morning, saith to each one of His servants here, "Do not sin against the child," and I ask that if no other voice be heard, we may all bow before His glorious Majesty, and ask for grace to be willing and obedient.
III. Thirdly, having heard the message, WHAT THEN? Only two things.
1. Does not that exhortation startle some of the unconverted and unawakened here? I think if I were as you are, sir, if I had lived to be sixty years of age, and my son had died through drunkenness, or my daughter were at this time living a godless life, and I were unconverted, it would shoot a pang through my heart to think that I should have brought such misery upon them through my neglect of Divine things.
2. Does not this command of this morning press upon every Christian here, not alone upbraiding us, but as arousing our laggard energies, exciting us to something more of diligence and effort? Will you not roll away that reproach which I mentioned just now, which rests upon some of you, because there are schools without teachers? Parents, will you not pray for your children, and even to-day seek to hold up Jesus before them? Will we not all, God helping us, say within ourselves, that we will not longer sin against the child, but in Jesus' name seek to gather His lambs and feed them for Him?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. We may sin against a child first of all by spoiling him. If the peach trees and plum trees that are nailed to the garden walls by a hundred little pieces of cloth could but think and speak, they might very likely say to the gardener so busily at work with the hammer — "Why fasten us up like this, and forbid our beautiful branches from running on the ground or playing in the breeze. How unkind it is to put so many restraints upon us and leave us so little liberty; let us just for this season run over the wall, along by the wall, or away from the wall, or any way we please." But the gardener, with a smile, would reply, "It is out of kindness I do it, not from mere caprice. Wait until the spring has glided into summer, and all thy branches are decked with snowy bloom. Wait until the summer has mellowed into autumn, and then when thy boughs are laden with fruit, which they never could have borne but for these restrictions, then you will see that all has been done for thy good and to make thy fruit the richer." So, parents, out of very kindness to the child you must sometimes say, "No," and place restrictions on him.
2. There is a second way in which you may sin against a child, the very reverse of that just mentioned, and it is by harshness.
3. A third way of sinning against a child is by bad example. It is Gilfillan who remarks that "any fault in a parent, any inconsistency, any disproportion between profession and practice, or precept and practice, falls upon the child's eye with the force and precision of sunbeams on a daguerreotype plate." On what other ground can you account for the awful proficiency in sin which you find in many a little one?
4. There is a fourth way of sinning against a child which I do not for a moment suppose is followed by any present. It is by selling a child for gain. Would that my Master might enable me to express in language strong enough the indignant thoughts that burn within my breast concerning this miserable traffic in children's souls. Joseph is not the only child that has been sold for a few pieces of silver. Do you ask me what I mean and to what I refer? I answer to the thoughtless wicked practice of setting the child to any kind of work, and placing him amidst any kind of companionship so as to have the benefit of the few pence he may earn. Better starve without it than live by it, for it is nothing less than blood money.
5. Our next point is one that will, I doubt not, include many present. You may sin against the child by neglecting the means for its salvation.
II. THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY WE SHOULD NOT SIN AGAINST THE CHILD.
1. Sin not against him, because he is a child. If you must sin against some one, sin against one of your own size and strength, but it is a dastardly thing and Cowardly to sin against a child. The little thing's innocence ought to be its safe. guard, and its very weakness should prove its protection.
2. Sin not against the child, because by so doing you may blast his whole life. You may with your foot so alter the course of that tiny little mountain rivulet that, instead of flowing gently down and widening as it goes until it glides through the smiling valley, refreshing thirsty man and beast, it leaps from rock to rock, from crag to crag, falling at last with hideous roar clown some black precipice. Oh, the fatal result of turning its course so near the spring.
3. Do not sin, moreover, against the child, because children are Christ's favourites. He ever showed a peculiar sympathy with and care over children.
(A. G. Brown.)
His blood is required. —
(G. Lawson D. D.)
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