But how misguided it is to beguile our children into believing they can be shielded from the fallout of sin in the world the way I shielded three pairs of eyes from the TV screen 12 years ago. Parents, you, more than anyone else, are strategically placed and uniquely endowed to examine and unmask the ugliness of this world for your children. You are the one they look to with trust and love; you are the one able to articulate the message and mold its delivery specifically to their temperaments.
Sometimes the scariness is “out there”, the actions of an enemy or a callous society. But children will learn in the Bible that God is not to be trifled with; He is awesome and terrifying and powerful. There are passages wherein the divine attributes on display are the ones that evoke trembling, fear and reverence. In Joshua 6-7, the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God of the Israelites had ensured His people that they would be victorious in battle, that He would go before them and be with them so that not a man would be lost and the land would be theirs, as they vanquished their enemies city by city, beginning with Jericho. With this promise, God included a command: Do not take for yourselves of the plunder, “but all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord,” or else “you make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it” (Josh. 6:18-19).
Jericho fell to the Israelites, but sin brought trouble into the camp. First the army was defeated at its next engagement, Ai. So badly, in fact, that the Israelites had to turn and flee, leaving behind 36 dead. The Lord told Joshua to man up and root out the cause of Israel’s destruction. And so the story of the sin of Achan unfolds.
Confession of sin is necessary, but an unsettling act for anyone, even more for a child. What child hasn’t trembled with the very thought of admitting his disobedience to his parents? Mount Law looms large, and the soul quakes. If God views sin so severely, where does that leave us when we trespass against Him? Do we face the same exacting, perfect, holy – and terrifying -- judgment as did Achan and his family?
In this moment, parents, is an opportunity to preach the gospel to your child: the origin and consequences of sin, the atoning sacrifice of a Savior, a sacrifice that only He could make, satisfying God’s wrath and securing justification, adoption and eternal glory for anyone who repents and puts her faith in Him. As A.W. Pink said, “Without Christ, man is in the dark, utterly in the dark concerning God. It is in Christ that God is revealed.” Here you can shine the light of the gospel into the dark dungeon of fear and conviction; still those quivering limbs with an embrace; and point her to the Cross and a Father who loves to the uttermost.
These are tough lessons to work through. I am thankful for Sunday School curriculum (i.e., Children Desiring God, Child Ministry International) that does not shy away from the hard truths but presents even the darkest moments in the stories of the Bible in a manner that points children to the Cross and the gospel message. I am also thankful for parents who faithfully adhere to the word of God as they “bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).