I am God almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish my covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly… As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing– all the land of Canaan– as an eternal possession, and I will be their God. Gen 17:1-8, HCSB
As discussed in The Penultimate End of Man, Part 1, man was made to glorify God by working and raising kids. In a fallen world, people still work and raise kids, but there is something wrong with the way they do these things, so that they do not rightly glorify God and spread his kingdom. Outside of covenant with God, men build the city of man. When work is not done with justice, the world is subdued for Satan instead of God.
Through Abraham, God begins again to build His kingdom on Earth, and this time the mission will not get derailed. God’s kingdom is established by a covenant, received by Abraham’s faith (Gen 15:6), and demonstrated in circumcision (Gen 17:11) and justice (Gen 18:19). The blessings promised to Abraham are that he will multiply, fill the land of Canaan, and rule over it, and thereby bless every family in the world. The covenent and its blessing is passed to Isaac, then to Jacob, then to the nation of Israel, then through David to Jesus; and through Him it is passed to everyone who has faith like Abraham. This post is an overview of how God’s kingdom is built by faithful (but flawed) people working and raising godly children.
Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. This is how the Lord will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him. Gen 18:18-19
Abraham is a rich and powerful man who obeys God, and his greatest achievement is raising a son. Without a son, he would not care for anything else in the world God could give him (Gen 15:2). God creates a new people through the miraculous birth of Isaac. Abraham teaches Isaac to trust God, circumcizes him into the covenant, and leaves him a large inheritance. Isaac is blessed because of Abraham’s obedience (Gen 26:5). The purpose of Abraham’s military power is to protect his family and their possessions (Gen14:14-16).
One of the greatest demonstrations of Abraham’s faith is the way he goes about finding Isaac a wife. If Isaac marries a Canaanite he will likely be corrupted, but it is also unacceptable for Isaac to leave Canaan. So Abraham is confident that the Lord will give success to a servant sent on a nearly impossible mission to bring a woman from Abraham’s family to Isaac. By the rules Abraham sets up (Gen 24:2-8), if this servant fails, then Isaac will never get married, and what will come of God’s promises? So the Lord gives the servant success in his mission to bring Rebekah to Isaac.
Isaac sows and reaps, digs wells, and keeps livestock. Abraham had left his whole inheritance to Isaac because of God’s promise, but Isaac does not have this attitude when God chooses Jacob from the womb. Esau falls into the trap of marrying Canaanites, and Jacob has to flee Canaan. This seems to go against all of Abraham’s wishes, but through God’s blessing and 20 years of hard labor, Jacob comes back to Canaan with a large and prosperous family. The rest of Genesis describes how they multiply to 70 people, survive a famine because of Joseph’s work, and are given their own land in Egypt.
But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.Exod 1:7
Like Jacob, the Israelites take refuge outside of Canaan while they multiply. They pass the knowledge of God and his promises down to their children until the time comes for God to bring them back to their land. As slaves they are generally kept alive because of their labor, and even while Egypt kills their sons God makes them continue to multiply. When they leave Egypt, there is a shortage of faith, so God spends 40 years raising the next generation Himself, giving them food, water, discipline, and guidance.
The Lord gives each family in Israel (except the tribe of Levi) land. Each family would work their own land to provide for the family’s needs, and they would pass the land down to their descendents forever. They are called to teach their children to obey God and worship Him. Military force is often necessary to defend the land. The Old Testament wisdom literature gives instruction for being productive. Some of the produce grown on a family’s land would help take care of widows, orphans, immigrants, and Levites.
God’s promise to bless and multiply Israel is conditioned on them 1. loving Him and 2. treating their neighbor fairly. The Levites also work and raise children, for the purpose of leading the people to worship and obey God, and to receive His peace and forgiveness through sacrifices. This work preserves the nation, and the Levites are preserved by the nation’s offerings. In the end, idolatry and injustice bring God’s curses, which are the opposite of the blessings promised to Abraham.
So the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.Acts 6:7
Though the New Testament adds new meaning to the household, it does not forget the mission given to Adam, Noah, and Abraham. A concept taught sometimes in the Old Testament and more frequently in the New Testament is that marriage, fatherhood, and motherhood are pictures of God’s relationship to His covenant people. We are to perform our household roles not only for for the good of our family and to raise godly children, but also to give a picture of spiritual truths.
In the new covenant, God’s people multiply and bear fruit by the labor of preaching of the gospel. Paul, a single man, is more fruitful than many families, taking the roles of both mother and father to his young churches (1 Thess 2:7-12). The Spirit produces “fruit” in us as He sanctifies us (Gal 5:22-23). Jesus is appointed ruler over the earth, and we make his rule visible as we teach the world to obey him (Matt 28:18-20). Those who are spiritually circumcized by putting off the flesh (Col 2:11) are counted as sons of Abraham because they belong to Jesus (Gal 3:29) and share Abraham’s faith (Gal 3:6-7).
Obeying Jesus, for most Chistians, involves managing a household, physically working, showing hospitality, and raising children. Much of the ethical teaching in the New Testament revolves around these, because they are the basic good endeavors of humans. The household is the context where human needs are normally met, and most young Christians should plan to get married (1 Tim 5:14). Managing a household well can prepare a man to manage the household of God (1 Tim 3:4-5, 15).
Managing our own household is the bare minimum ethic, but Christians are also concerned with one another and with the world. Work and family are not our ultimate goal, but they are inherently good things that can also be used for the good of the church and the world. A stable household can be hospitable, share with widows and orphans, and preach the gospel. And it is the place where the next generation of Christians is taught to worship God, work, raise children, and preach the gospel.