Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
1 Kings 4:1-34
Questions & Observations
Q. (1 Kings 4:20-34): This account greatly contrasts from his father’s. Why was Solomon so blessed and David’s reign was so tumultuous?
A. Um, let’s hold that thought until the story is completed. But the answer to your question is David’s sins. Solomon has done pretty well to this point, but things are about to turn for the same reason David’s kingdom fell apart.
Q. (Psalm 127:3-5): I love these little sprite verses. They make me smile. Here it says “how joyful is the many whose quiver is full of them (children).” We were going to talk about this before, but decided to hold off. Here it sounds like having a lot of children is a desirable thing by society. Nowadays, families are normally much smaller with 1-3 children. Are there any verses that address how God views the many ways of a planned family via birth control?
A. Well, obviously, artificial birth control is a modern invention undreamed of in the days of the Bible, but many of the ways that society has shifted in the last two centuries reflect the movement away from large families (i.e. they became the exception and not the norm). First, until the modern age, no one planned for retirement (partly because a lot of people didn’t live that long), and so if you did, you were fully dependent upon your children. So if you had more kids, you were probably pretty safe. This was especially true of women, who would have depended upon the care of a male relative (most likely a son) after she was widowed.
Regarding the issue of how the Bible approaches family, there’s a lot going on: many of these issues have to be held in tension, but I think there’s a consistent thread. Part of it has to do with the distinction between OT and NT. In the OT, the main goal for each generation was raising up a new generation who would love and have a healthy relationship with God so that they to could inherit the Promised Land. That obviously makes family paramount, so verses like these surely express the sentiment that they felt: they honored God by having many children. But after Jesus (who as we have discussed, was NOT married), the mission focus was expanded to not only Jews, but also the entire world, while not losing the focus on an individual family (I hope that makes sense). The individual family was still prized by God: it is still HIS primary design for how His loved is passed from generation to generation, whether among Jew or Christian. But with Jesus as the example, God set a new standard: family was not the ONLY way to spread His word. So to some people who were not married — like Jesus, including Paul, and most major western Church leaders, and this would include women — God gave them the task of spreading the word about His actions and having only the congregation or Church as family, rather than offspring. In other words, they were called to celibacy. It goes back to Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-15: God has blessed different people in different ways — some He (clearly!) desires to have children, and others He calls to a life of celibacy that they might follow Him more closely for their lives or some portion of it, they are not mutually exclusive.
The problem is that even though God honors BOTH paths equally — as long as we are faithful to Him while on these roads — we find that our society often confuses isolation and not being married with being incomplete. Part of that incompleteness in our world is removed by having children, but sometimes having children is actually a very selfish way of dealing with feelings of isolation or loneliness. That is often a very tragic situation. Now, I am not saying that God cannot redeem such situations, but as we have discussed over these months, how God acts to redeem us and WHAT HE IDEALLY DESIRES are often very different things. When we allow anything other than God to provide our fulfillment, even children, we have created an idol, however noble its creation might appear to be. We are not living as the men and women He desires us to be if we are seeking ultimate fulfillment in a child rather than God. So basically, as long as we keep first things first — that is, God above all else — then I think we have a great degree of freedom as Christians to seek out a partner to have children with within community. We must honor God with our families, whether they are biological or bound by the Spirit.