The Children of the Bible
The Children of the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, [ca. 1900].Preface
A long the sea-coast of most lands there can be seen some very useful buildings, built upon rocks or lofty hills near the shore. Some of these are called lighthouses, and others beacons. The first are chiefly intended to guide ships into harbor, or to point out the course they should steer; the latter are to warn of rocks and sands, on which vessels may be wrecked. Such buildings may have been seen by only a few of our young readers, but there are other kinds of "lighthouses" and "beacons" with which they may become more familiar, and they are found in God's Word, the Bible. The Bible is a "lighthouse" to guide us in the right way that leads us to a blessed life on earth and to everlasting life in Heaven. The Bible is also a "beacon" to warn us so that we may avoid becoming shipwrecked. These "lighthouses" and "beacons" in the Bible are not built of brick and stone, but of the clear instructions and commands of God and the examples we have in the actions and conduct of people who lived many years ago. As we look at these short sketches of young people in the Bible and observe their behavior, may the Holy Spirit teach us to watch and pray that we may be guided safely over the voyage of life, live lives that are pleasing to the Lord, and may be saved from dangers more fatal than pointed rocks and hidden sands.
Isaac and Ishmael
Far away in the East is a country formerly called Canaan, and near to it is another, still known as Arabia. At the part where these two lands join is a long and wide desert. Only a few trees and shrubs grow in this barren spot. There are no flowing rivers or broad streams of water. In some places a little stream slowly moves along in winter, but it dries up in summer. The heat of the sun burns up nearly all the grass; yet there are a few places where water and pasture are found. To these spots the shepherds of that region bring large flocks of sheep and goats, which quietly feed around the dark looking tents.
Nearly four thousand years ago, a good man named Abram, lived in this part of the world. He was rich, though his riches did not consist in houses and lands, or in gold and jewels, but in sheep and cattle. His house was a tent. This was the best kind of dwelling for him as he often made long journeys with his flocks from place to place. He could easily take down his tent, and put it up again as he went about the country.
Abram, or Abraham as he was afterwards called, was not born in Canaan; God brought him from his own land to live there. Abraham trusted God and the Bible tells us that "he was called the Friend of God." God promised him that from his family or race the Saviour was to come. This was the great promise of God, and through it the greatest of all blessings was to be given to sinful man. It is said in the New Testament that Abraham saw, or foresaw, the day of Jesus, and was glad. He was glad there was a Saviour for his own soul, who would be a Saviour for all those who would believe in Him, in every age.
Abraham had two sons; one named Ishmael, and the other Isaac. Though these brothers had the same father, they did not have the same mother; Ishmael was the son of Hagar, and Isaac the son of Sarah. As Ishmael was much older than his little brother, he ought to have been kind to him, and set a good example. But he did not love him and was so full of spite that he mocked his brother Isaac. Perhaps he called him ill names, because he knew it had been promised to his father that he should be the father of a great nation.
Grieved by the bad conduct of his eldest son, and at the urging of his wife Sarah, Abraham sent the boy and his mother Hagar away. We do not know that he would have done so if God had not told him that He would take care of them, and also make this son the forefather of numerous tribes of people.
It was early in the morning when Ishmael and his mother were sent away from the tent of Abraham. A leathern bottle of water and some bread were given to them. They must have felt very sorry when they left such a good home as they had long enjoyed. The grief of Ishmael must have been the greater, as he knew it was his bad conduct which had led to their being sent away.
The outcast mother and her boy went toward the desert. As she was a native of Egypt she may have thought she could reach that country, and live among her own people. She had not traveled many miles before she came to a wild part of the country. What could she now do? She had lost her way, and went up and down the desert, and could find no one to guide her. In that part of the world there were no roads or paths, and the way was rough and painful, and the heat great.
At last they had drunk all the water from the bottle, and they could see no well or river from which they could again fill it. Ishmael was now weary with walking, and faint from thirst and the heat of the sun. He could not go on any farther. How sad was the state of the poor mother and her boy! In her distress, she cried, "Let me not see the death of the child." So she laid him under a shrub, and "sat down over against him, a good way off." She could not help him, but would not leave him to perish alone. Ishmael must now have known how foolish and wicked his conduct had been. He knew that he had brought himself and his mother into all this affliction, and he must have wished that they were once again in Abraham's tent. Sin will always bring us into trouble.
As the lad lay weeping and moaning, a voice was heard by Hagar. Where could it have come from? Could she be mistaken in the sound? No; in the stillness of the solitude an angel spoke to Hagar. He had been sent by God to comfort her in her distress.
"Fear not," said he; "for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is."
And "God opened her eyes," so that she saw a well not far off from where she sat. With new strength she rose from the ground, and with joy took her bottle to the well. Do not we think we see her, as soon as it is filled, hastening to her son, and before she tastes a drop herself, pressing it to his lips? See how she bathes his forehead with some of the cooling water, and, as she finds him revive, how gently she raises him in her arms and kisses him! When they were revived, they again filled their bottle for their journey, and went on their way. From that time "God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer."
There is no further account of the early days of Isaac and Ishmael in the Bible. But there are lessons to be learned from this account of these two brothers:
1. God can see us in every place. "For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He pondereth all his goings." Proverbs 5:21. His eye is as much upon us in a desert as when we are sitting by our own fireside. Also, when we are brought into trouble by our own folly and sin, we may still pray to God. Wherever we are, as we cry out to the Lord, His ear will listen to our prayers, and His hand is ready to afford His gracious help. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me." Psalm 50:15.
2. God is displeased with those children who vex and mock their brothers and sisters. If there be an ill behaved child in a family, he makes others unhappy besides himself. We should all try to live together in love and peace; and elder children should set a good example for the younger. The way for a family to be happy is to love God, obey His Word and be kind one to another. The servant of the Lord should not strive nor speak evil of others, but whether young or old we should be kind to and love one another. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31-32.
When Isaac grew up to be quite a tall, strong youth, a very strange and wonderful thing happened to him. God came and spoke to Abraham, his father, and told him to take Isaac and go on a three day journey to a mountain, and there on the top to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
You remember how much Abraham loved Isaac. He loved him more than words can tell. But Abraham loved God even more than he did his own son Isaac. Abraham was very sad, and could not make out what God meant by bidding him to do such a dreadful deed. But God had told him to do it, and that was enough for Abraham for his trust was in God. He knew that whatever God told him to do must be right.
The Bible tells us the story of what took place in very lovely and simple words.
"And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
"And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
"And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
"And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." Genesis 22:1-14.
In old days, when anything wonderful took place, men named the spot in such a way as to tell what had been done there. So Abraham, glad and joyful as he was, called the name of the place where God had tried him, and found that at His command he was willing to give up even his dear son Isaac, Jehovah-jireh. These Hebrew words mean, the Lord will see, or will provide.
On the spot where Abraham built his altar and was about to kill Isaac, hundreds of years later the great and beautiful temple, was built: first by Solomon, then by Zerubbabel, and last of all rebuilt by wicked King Herod. Not far from that temple, Jesus on Mount Calvary was offered as the one great sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. You remember the hymn—
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
The Lord Jesus obeyed His Father's will and was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." And Isaac, as we just read, was obedient to his father, Abraham. So children today should obey God's Word and be obedient to their parents: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right." Ephesians 6:1.
Joseph was the second youngest son of his father Jacob, and he was his favorite. I suppose we all want the people we love to look nice, so Jacob showed his love for Joseph by giving him a coat of many colors. This may seem rather strange to you, but you must remember that at the time when Joseph was born, colored things cost a lot of money. So robes of several colors were worn by royal persons, or were given to people as a mark of high honor.
When Joseph's brothers saw him dressed more grandly than they were, they began to hate him. Now remember as you think about Joseph and his brothers, that our hearts are like a garden. Whatever kind of seeds you put in the garden, they will come up, "for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:7. If you put in good seeds, you will have pretty flowers; but if you put in the seeds of weeds or poisonous plants, then weeds and bad plants will grow up. God through His Word, the Bible puts very good seeds into our hearts which grow up into beautiful fruit of goodness, gentleness, truth. But there is someone else who is watching and waiting to drop bad seeds in our hearts; and that is our enemy, the devil. The seeds which he plants are envy, hatred, malice, and every bad thought.
The devil put the seed of hate into the heart of Joseph's ten brothers; and because they did not at once pray to have it taken away, the seed took root, and grew quickly.
Joseph used to go with his brothers to take care of the sheep and goats. They were shepherds living in Hebron, and so they had plenty of opportunity to punish him for being their father's favorite. As they gave way to their evil thoughts towards Joseph they could not even make themselves "speak peaceably unto him." This means that they could not say "Peace," which was the usual greeting or farewell among the Hebrews, instead of our "How do you do? or "Good-bye."
One day Joseph made them more angry than ever. He told them that during the night he had dreamed a strange dream. He dreamed he was in a field of wheat with his brothers. They were all binding the wheat into sheaves, and when they had each made a sheaf, Joseph dreamed that his brothers' sheaves all bowed down to the one he had made.
When he told his brothers this dream, they were very angry, and the evil thoughts which they had allowed to grow in their hearts, made them hate their brother even more.
"And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words." Genesis 37:8.
Not long afterwards Joseph dreamed again, and this time he dreamed that the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down before him. This surprised the boy so much that he told his father about it. Jacob was surprised too, but he was not angry, for he knew that his son could not help his dreams. Perhaps he may have remembered that he too had had a wonderful dream when he was quite a young man, and may have thought that in some strange way, God would make his favorite child's dream come true. So all he said was, "Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?" Genesis 37:10.
But this second dream had a very different effect on Joseph's brothers; they called him the dreamer, and watched for the time when they could punish him.
What a difference it makes whether we like people or not. I might even say that we go through the world looking through two kinds of spectacles — the spectacles of jealousy, or the spectacles of love. If you are angry with your brother or sister or friend, does not everything that they do seem wrong? You cannot see any good or any beauty in anything they say or do; you are looking through the spectacles of jealousy and hatred. It is the same sort of feeling which made Joseph's brethren think badly of everything about him. Oh, do not give way to it.
In your own strength you can do nothing. That evil spirit will grow and grow till it blinds your eyes to all the good that is in other people, till it makes you close your ears to all kind things that may be said about them, and makes your tongue only speak evil of them.
Pray then to God, whenever you feel upset with any one. Pray earnestly that God will help you to forgive and to love the person offending you, even as Jesus forgives and loves you. Then when you look at your brother or sister or friend through the spectacles of love, you will be surprised to find what a lot of good there is in them.
I told you that the sons of Jacob were shepherds; but in order that you understand the rest of Joseph's history, I should like to tell you a little about the way in which shepherds lived in those days.
When they had a great many sheep and goats to take care of, they used to lead them from place to place to find fresh pasture ground. The shepherd sat in a tent during the day and slept during the night if his flock were safe from wild beasts and robbers. If there was any danger near, he would watch them all night, as the Eastern shepherds were doing when they heard the angels on the night of our Lord's birth.
So when Jacob's flocks had eaten all the grass near Hebron, his sons took them away little by little until they were many miles from home, near Shechem. Joseph did not go with them this time, but stayed at home with his father and his little brother Benjamin.
By-and-by Jacob wanted to hear how his ten sons were doing, and so he told Joseph to go and see where his ten brothers were, and to bring him back word how they and the flocks were doing.
Now Joseph was an obedient boy; and although he must have known very well that his elder brothers hated him, he started off at once to do as his father had told him. Putting on his coat of many colors, Joseph bade farewell to his father, little thinking how many years it would be before he saw his dear face again. He wandered a long way looking for his brothers, when one day a man met him and said, "What seekest thou?"
Joseph told him that he was looking for his brothers, and begged him to tell him if he knew where they were. Hearing that his brothers had said they were going to Dothan, Joseph went after them, and by-and-by saw them a long way off. When I tell you that Hebron, where Jacob lived, was about seventy miles from Dothan, you will see what a long journey Joseph had to take.
From the hilly ground where they were keeping their flocks, the brothers caught sight of a figure coming toward them. They knew the long colored robe, even before they could see the face of the wearer, and they said to each other, "Behold this dreamer cometh."
Now watch how the bad seed had grown. At first they were sulky with him and would not say "Peace" when they met him; next, they called him names; and now, as he came walking towards them alone and tired from his long journey, they plotted to kill him and said "we shall see what will become of his dreams."
But Reuben, the eldest of them all, had some pity left. He did not forget that it is an elder brother's duty to take care of the younger ones, but he did not have courage enough to face them all, and say that he would not allow them to harm the boy. He wanted to keep friends with them, and yet save Joseph.
Now there were many deep holes, or tanks, dug at Dothan, to catch the rain, and as Reuben looked round he caught sight of one of these.
"Let us not kill him," he said to his brothers, "but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness," and leave him there. And as he spoke, he made up his mind that when his brothers had moved on, he would get Joseph out of the pit and send him home safely to his father.
They all agreed with Rebuen's suggestion. They took poor Joseph and pulled off the fine robe which had offended them so much, and threw him into the deep hole to starve to death. Far from being frightened after their wicked deed, they sat down close by to eat their food; all, at least, but Reuben, who went away for a time, perhaps to think what he could do to save his poor brother.
Soon a number of people appeared in sight. Camels were walking with them, laden with spices and balm and myrrh, which were to be sold in Egypt. Then Judah, another brother, was a little softer than the others, said, "Let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh."
So they called to the merchants and asked if they would buy a boy. When the Ishmaelites said they would gladly do so, they pulled Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to them to be a slave, for twenty pieces of silver.
Presently, after the long stream of camels had passed out of sight, Reuben came back. Looking into the pit he found it empty, and was in great sorrow. He had only meant to do a little wrong, but now he had become a sharer in a great sin. So does one wicked thought or act lead to another.
You put a snowball at the top of a hill, give it a gentle touch and it goes down slowly at first. But soon it goes quicker and quicker, till your little feet can no longer keep by the side of it; and the ball goes on and on, getting larger and larger till it gets to the bottom.
So it is with our sins. We give way to a little one perhaps, and do not mean to do any more, but sins grow bigger and bigger, and soon we find we are doing all sorts of bad things that we never meant at first. But there is Someone who can help us. It is the Lord Jesus. He is the only One who can save us from our sins and the only One who can give us strength not to sin again.
Next the brothers had to think what they could say to their poor father when they went home without his favorite son. No doubt the old man was glad to hear the bleating of the sheep when his sons reached home. Can you not see him going out to meet them? How soon his joy must have turned to sorrow when he missed Joseph's dear face.
His heart was sad indeed when they held up the coat which he knew so well, all stained with blood and said,
"This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no[t]."
You see they did not tell a lie, but they did act one which is just as bad. They dipped the coat in blood in order to deceive their father, and they let him be the one to say, "An evil beast hath devoured him."
Perhaps they thought that they were not sinning as much as if they had told the lie; but it is just as bad to act a lie as to tell one. Whatever we do that is meant to deceive, is just as false as if we had said what was not true. We need to remember that "Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are His delight." Proverbs 12:22.
Poor Jacob wept for his favorite son! His other sons and daughters tried to comfort him, but he said that he should never be happy again, but should grieve for Joseph till he died.
I wonder which you would rather have been- one of those brothers living with their father at home, with the sin on their hearts, or poor Joseph, sold as a slave amongst strangers, in Egypt, but never forgetting his God or his father? I hope you would have chosen the better part. It is hard to suffer trouble or pain, but God gives us strength to bear it. If we know that He loves us, and we love Him, then we can be happy in our hearts, whatever misfortunes may happen to our bodies.
One thing you may be sure of, which this picture of Joseph's early life shows very plainly. God permits everything that happens to us; and however bad it may seem, good will come of it, if we trust Him. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Philippians 2:13. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28.
You will be able by-and-by to read how well Joseph got on in the strange land; how his dreams came true, and how, instead of saying, "I told you so," as we might have done, he was kind and forgiving to his brethren, when they were in his power. But he was a man when all that happened, and I only wanted to tell you about his early life now.
Before we look at the next Bible character, we must travel a long way. We must go down into Egypt; the land to which Joseph was carried by the merchants, and where he and his brothers lived for a long while.
Egypt is a country often mentioned in the Bible. It is a very long valley, through which runs a famous river called the Nile. During part of the year the country is dry, like a desert; but in the month of July the waters in the river rise and spread over the land, which then looks like a red, muddy sea. When the waters withdraw, the ground is very fertile, and large fields of wheat are soon seen growing on every side.
The kings of this land were called Pharaoh. The kindhearted Pharaoh who had trusted and liked Joseph had died. After the death of Joseph, a Pharaoh arose who was severe and cruel towards the people of Israel. He treated them as slaves and forced them to make bricks. He hoped in this way to destroy the people; but the more he oppressed them, the more they grew in number.
Pharaoh, finding that his plan had not succeeded, ordered the nurses who took care of the infants to kill all the little Hebrew boys as soon as they were born. There lived at this time a pious man and wife named Amram and Jochebed. They had a young daughter named Miriam and also a son Aaron, about three years old. God gave them a third child who was a lovely baby boy. As they looked upon him, their hearts felt all the joy of parents. But can it be that their dear child shall be taken from them, and killed as Pharaoh had ordered? For three months they concealed him in their house, but they could not continue to do so for fear that his cries or cheerful voice would be heard. And how could they bear the thought to see him torn from their arms, and killed as other infants had been?
What could they do in their distress? Was there any help for them? Yes, there was help for them in God. He could take care of their child; and to Him they resolved to commit their dear baby.
Their plan was soon formed, and they prepared to carry it out. On the banks of the River Nile there grew a plant called papyrus, from which a kind of paper was made. The parents got some of this plant, and made a little ark, or boat, just large enough to hold their child. May we not suppose that as they plaited this cradle-boat, they often lifted up their hearts in prayer to the Lord? And how many tears must have fallen from their eyes as they looked upon their baby boy, and thought that the time was come when they must leave him, and perhaps see him no more! But we are told in the Bible that they had faith; they believed that God, who had put it into their hearts to make the ark, would use it to save their child. They did not know in what way he would be saved, but they were sure God would do it in some way. For "with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26.
The ark was at last completed, and covered with a kind of pitch, so as to keep out the water. When the baby was laid in his strange cradle, how the family must have stood around; and before the ark was taken away, what sweet loving kisses must Miriam and Aaron have given to their little brother! And no doubt the parents prayed to God that He would keep their dear baby alive. The mother took it to the great river, and with her kiss, her blessing, and her prayers, she laid him among the flags, or tall reeds, "by the river's brink."
In this river were many reptiles called crocodiles — large, strong, and fierce. Their bodies were covered with a hard and scaly coating, and their mouths were filled with sharp teeth; and the people of the land were much alarmed by these creatures. But the babe slept in his little ark, and knew nothing of danger. There, safely under the eye of God, he rested; no fierce creature of the land or of the water could come nigh to hurt him. When the mother had gone away, his sister Miriam stood near the spot, and watched to see what would happen. She may have been placed there by her mother, or her own love may have led her to follow, that she might know what would become of her infant brother, whom she had so often cared for. Perhaps the mother was not far off, at a place they had agreed upon.
After a short time, the daughter of Pharaoh and her maids were seen coming to the spot. The hand of God brought them there, though they did not know it. As she passed down the river's side, she saw the ark among the flags. One of the maids was told to draw it from the water, and bring it to her; and when the cover was taken off, there lay the lovely baby. They looked at him and "the babe wept." He saw that they were strange faces and not those of his own dear mother and sister. God touched the heart of Pharaoh's daughter with tender feelings, and the helpless state and tears of the babe excited her pity. She knew that he was one of the Hebrews, or Jews, who had been placed there to avoid being killed by her father's order.
How Miriam's heart must have beat with hope and fear, as Pharaoh's daughter looked upon her little brother! She slowly came from her hiding place, to learn what would be done with him. As the princess spoke kindly about the child, Miriam drew closer to the spot, and meekly said, "Shall I go and call a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?"
"Go," said the daughter of Pharaoh, not knowing that she was talking to the sister of the baby.
The mother was soon brought to the place, and told, "Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages." Again the mother held her dear infant in her arms. She hastened to her home, and told her family how God had heard their prayers and saved their child.
Since Pharaoh's daughter had now taken the infant under her care, Pharaoh would spare the child for her sake. The child was was no longer looked upon as the son of a Hebrew slave, but as a young prince who might come to sit on the throne. To mark the striking event, Pharaoh's daughter called the child Moses, "Because," she said, "I drew him out of the water." The name is taken from a Hebrew word which means "to draw out."
From that time on Moses was one of the royal family. He was taught in all the learning of the people among whom he dwelt, and he was "mighty in words and deeds." Did he then forget the God of his fathers? No; because of his faith in God, when he was "come to years," he gave up all the riches and pleasures of the court of Egypt that he might share the sorrows of the children of Israel. The apostle says-
"By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter:
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."
Moses knew that God "is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him" and he was a faithful servant of the Lord. Moses lived to be one hundred and twenty years old and lived a useful and honorable life. His history, as given in the Bible, contains much to instruct all who read it.
From the account of his childhood we learn the lesson that God can provide for little children in times of danger and distress; such as in raising up Pharaoh's daughter to adopt Moses and thereby saving him from being killed. If the mighty God of creation watches and cares for the "fowls of the air" and the "lilies of the field," shall He not care for those whom He has created with a living soul to live for ever? He surely does, and Solomon reminds the young, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth..." Ecclesiastes 12:1. For even young children can know and trust, and love and praise God. Believing in Christ, they may be a child of God, and through His merits may dwell with Him for ever in Heaven. And if God is so good to children, should they not, as Moses did, choose His service and live to His glory?
In the early times, when the people of Israel dwelt in their own land, judges, prophets, and high priests ruled instead of kings and princes. One of these high priests was Eli, a man who loved the Lord, though he did not watch over his wicked sons as he should have done.
Eli lived near the tabernacle, or, (as it was then called), the temple. This temple was a large place, perhaps made of boards, with beautiful curtains inside, where the worship of God was carried on. In it were the holy place and the holy of holies, the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat, the altar of incense, the seven-branched golden candlestick, and other sacred things.
One day there came to the temple a good woman named Hannah, with Samuel, her little child. She had often been to this place before. Once when she came there she had prayed to the Lord to give her a son. And now she had brought this son with her, to offer him to the Lord, that he might be His servant in the temple. She had given to him the name of Samuel, which word means — "asked of the Lord." Hannah had made a vow, or promise, that if she had a son he should be given to the service of the temple.
A great many of us are ready to make all sorts of promises to God when we are in trouble or want something, but do we always keep our promises? Too often when trouble is over we forget them.
The child was young, perhaps only three years old, when he first stood before Eli. "For this child I prayed," she said; "and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD."
Then little Samuel began to "worship the LORD there." We may suppose that the mother fondly kissed her dear child before she left him in the temple, and then went to her happy home.
Samuel now wore a linen ephod. The ephod was part of the dress of a priest. It was a robe which hung down in front, and over the back. It was fastened by buckles set with jewels on the shoulders, and round the body by a girdle or sash. These buckles were often made of gold, and were set with sparkling jewels.
Every year Hannah made a little coat, and when she went up with her husband to the house of God to offer the yearly sacrifice, she took it to Samuel.
Jewish mothers used to employ some of their time at home in weaving wool and flax into cloth. This custom is noticed in the thirty-first chapter of Proverbs. They sat at the doors of their houses, and as they turned the distaff, or little machine for spinning, they sang some of the songs of Zion. We may suppose that Hannah spent many happy hours weaving the coat for her little boy, and longed for the time when she might take it to him, and again give him a mother's kiss. It may have been of fine linen — if so, it was made of flax; or of the purest white wool, which kind was much worn by the Jews; or it may have been of many colors, like that given to Joseph by his father Jacob. But whichever it was, it no doubt was a source of joy to both mother and child.
We think we see the delight of little Samuel whenever be saw his mother, and received from her hand his new coat. Some children would have become proud or vain if they bad been dressed as Samuel was; but we do not think he was vain of his robe, or of his early service in the temple. He was an obedient and pious child, for it is said of him, he was "in favour both with the LORD, and also with men."
Day by day the faithful child did his work in the temple. It seems to have been part of his duty to see that the seven lights on the great golden candlestick were burning, and to open and shut the doors. They were simple duties, you may think, but in doing them properly, little Samuel was pleasing God as much as the king on his throne, or the general at the head of his army. It does not matter what our day's work may be, but it does matter how we do it. The Bible tells us, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" 1 Corinthians 10:31 and "do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Colossians 3:23.
One night, when Samuel was about twelve years old, he had lain down to sleep in his little room or tent near to where Eli slept. Just at the dawn of the day, before the light which burned all night in the golden lamp was put out, Samuel heard a voice calling his name. He thought that Eli wanted him, and, like a good child, he ran to the aged priest and said,
"Here am I, for thou calledst me."
Eli said, "I called not; lie down again."
It was not long before he again heard the voice saying, "Samuel." He was now sure it was Eli, and he quickly went to his bedside, and said that he had indeed heard him call.
"I called not, my son," was the reply; "lie down again."
It was the voice of God that spoke, though as yet Samuel did not know it.
A third time the voice called as before, and the boy again hasted to his master. Eli now understood that it was the Lord who had spoken. "Go," said he, "lie down; and it shall be, if He call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD, for thy servant heareth."
So Samuel went and lay down in his place. For the fourth time the voice cried, "Samuel, Samuel." The lad now spoke as he had been instructed by Eli. Then the voice gave him this message for the aged Eli, that the Lord would punish the people of Israel for their sins, and that Eli's two sons should both die in one day, because they were very wicked. He was also to declare that the Lord was angry with Eli for not doing all he should have done to keep his sons from their evil conduct.
When the morning came, Samuel began to attend to his duties in the temple. He was afraid to tell Eli the sad things that would come upon his family and people. While he was there, Eli called him, and asked what the Lord had said, and desired that he would not conceal any word from him. When Eli heard what would come to pass, he piously said: "It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth Him good." Soon after this time the sons were killed in battle; and when their aged father was told they were dead, and that the ark of God was taken, he fell down from his seat and died also.
Samuel grew up to be the prophet and ruler of his people; and, after a useful and holy life, he died at a very old age. Because of his good life and labors we are told that at his death, "all Israel ... lamented him."
1. No audible voice is now heard such as came to Samuel in the temple; yet God speaks to the young by the voice of pious parents, by teachers and ministers, by His Word, and His Holy Spirit in their hearts. In this way He has spoken many times to you.
Oh, then, whene'er His call is heard,
Do you, like Samuel, say,
"Speak Lord; Thy servant hears Thy word,
And gladly will obey."
2. Ask for grace that you may devote yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ. He invites the young to give their hearts to Him. Why do they not attend to Him? Because they do not know how much He loves them. They do not feel how much they need Him as a Saviour. They do not think how greatly He can bless them, and do them good.
3. If the young would be useful when they grow up, they should try to be useful when they are young. They are not called to do the work which Samuel did in the Temple; but there are many ways in which they can serve God and obey His Word, and do good in the world.
Samuel served God all his life, and God gave him the ability to know what was going to happen in the future. This is why we call Samuel a prophet.
Samuel was not king, though; he did not wear a crown or sit on a throne, but he used to ask God what he was to tell the people to do, and then he told the people.
But the Israelites got tired of having no earthly king like other nations. Though God had said that He would be their king, they wanted to have some one who would lead them to fight against their enemies. Then Samuel gave the people a message from God, and said that as they wanted a king, God would let them have one, but the day would soon come when they would wish they had not asked for a king; for he would make them all work hard, and would take away all the good things which belonged to them, their corn and sheep, and fields and gardens.
Still they clamored for a king; so God told Samuel to anoint a young man named Saul, as the first king of Israel. That word anoint means to pour oil on some one or some thing. The Jews used to anoint, or pour oil on the heads of anyone who was going to be a prophet, or a priest, or a king.
Saul was a brave soldier, and the Israelites were very pleased when he led them to battle against different people. But one day Saul disobeyed God. That night God spoke to Samuel, and ordered him to go and tell Saul that he would be punished for his sin. God had given him the kingdom, and God would take it from him.
Samuel delivered his message faithfully, but his heart was sad; and when he had left Saul, he went home and was very, very sorry. Then God spoke to him again, and told him to leave off mourning for Saul; for He wanted him to go and anoint someone else to be king instead.
Now let us follow the old prophet, for he is old now and his work on earth is almost done. Watch him walking up the path which leads to the gateway of the little city of Bethlehem. How dear that place is to us all now, for was it not the birthplace of the Lord Jesus?
As Samuel walks along, he looks very sad. He is grieving over the wickedness of King Saul; perhaps too he is wondering whom he is to choose as king; for although God has told him what family to go to, He has not yet told him the name of the new king. God does not always make our way completely clear for us. He sends us one step at a time; but if we are sure that He is leading us, let us try to be content and trust in Him.
A feast was being held at Bethlehem, and Jesse, one of the chief men of the city, was present, with the elders of the town. Suddenly the prophet Samuel appears; before him goes the heifer or young cow which he has brought to sacrifice. In his hand the old man carries a horn of oil, with which he will anoint the future king.
The heifer was killed, and Jesse and his sons came in. Jesse seems to have understood that Samuel had some special work to do that day, for he presented his sons one by one to the old prophet. Seven of them went by; and although Samuel was very much pleased with the eldest of all, who was very tall and grand looking, God would not let him anoint him. The words which God said to Samuel about Eliab, the eldest son of Jesse, have comforted many people
"The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart."
Think of those words the next time you are troubled, dear child. Some classmate has told tales about you perhaps. You meant to do some one a good turn, to help him, and instead of that you have made him upset. him. Never mind: "The Lord looketh on the heart." He knows what you meant to do, so never mind what your companions say.
Perhaps you are plain and dull. You feel shy among your classmates, and wish you were as pretty as this friend, or as clever as the other. Never mind: "The Lord looketh on the heart." He does not care what your face is like; He cares only about your heart. If your heart is full of love to Him, then God is satisfied.
When Jesse's seven sons had passed before Samuel, he asked Jesse whether he had any other children. Then Jesse said that he had one other, but he was the youngest, and he was away taking care of the sheep.
"And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither."
Before long the boy was brought in.
He is a mere boy, not a grown-up man, like his brothers. He is ruddy in face, and he is also very good-looking. He has lived so much out of doors that he can move quickly and lightly. His feet are swift, and his arm is strong. As he has just come from the sheep, he still carries his shepherd's staff, while the little bag or wallet which holds his food is still fastened round his shoulders.
His name is a good one. He is called David, which means beloved. The young shepherd boy is fair of face, but he has something better than all the good looks in the world, as well. He has the love of God in his heart; and that love makes him gentle and kind to all who know him, so that he is David the beloved of God, and of his home.
As soon as David came in, God spoke to Samuel: "Arise and anoint him; for this is he." So the prophet took the oil, and poured it over David's head.
But perhaps you are wanting to know whether David was changed in any way after Samuel annointed him. Listen to what the Bible says:-
"The Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward."
Yes, dear children, being chosen by God and giving our hearts to Him through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus, His Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. We are born again and begin a new life, oh! so different from the old one when we knew not God, and had not His Spirit in our hearts.
David does not know what is going to happen to him by-and-by. He does not know that he, the little shepherd lad, is going to be king of Israel; but he feels the change in his heart. He feels the power of God's Spirit guiding him, and he rejoices in it.
David was not spoiled by pride from doing his regular shepherd duties. He went back to his sheep, and played on his harp to them. His heart must have been full of strange joy; but he did not neglect his duties, or try to hurry to the new life which he must have felt sure God was getting ready for him.
Sometimes, you know, there were dangers to be faced by those who were keeping sheep. You remember that our Lord spoke about a good shepherd giving his life for the sheep. Indeed, although a shepherd's work may seem very easy to you nowadays, it was not so in the olden times.
Wild beasts often used to try to carry off the sheep. Lions and wolves, bears and panthers, would sometimes get bold from hunger; then the good shepherd would send a sharp stone from his sling and kill the wild beast. Bad men, too, would sometimes try to steal some of the sheep or lambs. So you see a shepherd had to be brave as well as to be watchful.
It was because of all these dangers that shepherds began to build folds for their sheep. A high wall was made, with one little door in it, through which the flocks could enter. The top of the wall was covered thickly with the great thorns which grow in the Holy Land, to prevent wild beasts jumping or bad men climbing over. Once inside the fold, the sheep were safe. So we, when we have joined Christ's fold, are safe from all harm that can happen to our souls — "safe in the arms of Jesus," the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep.
One day when the young shepherd was watching his father's sheep as usual, a lion came and took a lamb away. David was not afraid, but he ran to the lion, and took the poor little lamb out of his mouth, and then he killed the lion. At another time a bear came, and David killed him too.
David did not boast about these two brave deeds. In fact, if it had not been for the great giant Goliath, I do not think we should have ever heard about them. David does not seem to have spoken about it, until he had offered to go and fight the giant. Then he told King Saul about the lion and bear, because he was sure it was only through God's help that he had been able to kill those terrible beasts. "If God helped me then, He will help me now," he thought; and he was right, for God never forsakes those who trust in Him. David said, "The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine."
David was a young man when he went to fight Goliath, but still I think I must tell you about it. The Philistines were wicked people who did not love God, and very often troubled the Israelites. One day, whilst Saul was still king, the Philistines came and put their tents on the top of a hill, and Saul took his soldiers and put his tents on another hill opposite. Between them there was a deep hole or valley, and at the bottom of the valley was a little brook or stream of water. So the two armies could see each other day and night.
Now, there was one man among the Philistine soldiers who was about ten feet tall. He was as strong as he was big, and he was dressed in armor. People do not wear armor now, but they always used to then, because they did not fight with guns and rifles as we do. They only used spears, swords, and arrows; so that a dress made of iron or brass would prevent the sharp points from hurting them.
This giant's name was Goliath, and he was very proud and bold. Twice a day for forty days, he stood on his side of the hill and shouted to the Israelites:
"Why are are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us."
Goliath was what school-boys would call a bully. Because he was bigger and stronger than anyone else, he thought he might be rough and rude to everyone.
The Israelites were afraid of Goliath. There was not one amongst all their soldiers who dared to fight with such a monster. You remember that Jesse had seven sons besides David. Three of these young men were soldiers, and were living with the rest of the army on the top of the hill facing the Philistines.
One day Jesse, who was too old to go about much himself, sent his youngest son on a message, just as Jacob had sent Joseph many years before.
He told David to go see how his brothers were doing and to take some bread and corn to them.
So David started. No doubt he was very glad to have the chance of seeing all the soldiers, for we find his eldest brother scolding him for coming down to see the battle, as if he knew David had longed to be with the soldiers.
The young shepherd reached the tents just in time to hear the rude giant defy all the Israelites. Remember, the Spirit of the Lord was with him, and so David was very angry when he heard a heathen man speaking so roughly to the armies of the living God. He was surprised that the people should be afraid of fighting Goliath, for he had faith in God, and was sure that He would help anyone who fought for Him. So he said if no one else would fight the giant he would.
I dare say many of the soldiers laughed at the thought of a young lad whose life had been spent in taking care of sheep, daring to face a great giant who had been trained as a soldier. But David did not mind; and when Saul sent for him, he answered boldly that he was sure the God who had saved him from the lion and the bear, would save him from the giant.
Saul can hardly believe that David can do what he offers, but he feels that something must be done to save the Israelites. So he says that David may go, and try to conquer Goliath, but he must put on some armor.
A beautiful suit of armor, which really be longed to the king, is brought to David; but the young shepherd has not been used to such a dress. It is heavy, and he feels that he can hardly move in it. Besides, he has such grand faith in God that he feels he needs no armor, no sword, no spear. He will go forth in the power of God only.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."
Shepherds generally carried a staff, and a bag or wallet, besides a sling with which they would throw stones at any wild beasts which came too near their flocks. Now David had come straight from the sheep to do his father's bidding, so he had his staff and sling with him.
When he left Saul's tent he went to the brook at the bottom of the valley, and picking up five smooth stones, he put them in his bag, and went to meet Goliath.
No wonder the giant stared in surprise when he saw the person who, after his defying the Israelites for forty days and nights, had now come out to fight him. No doubt he expected to see a tall soldier, dressed in armor, and carrying a shield and spear. Instead of this he sees "but a youth."
Then Goliath mocked David, and used bad words. David was not intimidated. He called out loudly that he had come "in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel ... whom thou hast defied ... this day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee." Goliath, seeing that he was really in earnest, now came towards David. But he did not take many steps before he fell flat on his face on the earth.
He never got up again, and he never spoke another word, for one of David's smooth stones which he had put in his sling and slang at Goliath had gone right into his forehead. The man who had defied the armies of Israel for forty days, was killed by a simple shepherd who had nothing but a sling and stone; but he had faith in God, and that was what gave him the victory.
Then David took the giant's sword, and cut off Goliath's head with it, and showed it to the Israelites that they might see that their terrible enemy really was dead.
You may be sure David did not forget to thank God for His great goodness to him. You know the Psalms of David. In one of them you will find these words, "Thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O LORD." No doubt David was thinking of Goliath when he wrote that.
Every one who loves Christ must be a soldier. The battle we have to fight is "the good fight of faith." Our enemy the devil, puts evil thoughts into our hearts and tempts us to do wicked things.
We must not trust in our own strength; we must go out to battle "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." He will help us, and trusting in His Holy Spirit we are sure to conquer. Even when the temptations are very great, like big giants, we need not fear; God is just as ready to help now as He was in the days of David and Goliath. By prayer we will knock the giant down. Remember, "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees"; for he knows that the moment we pray to God the weakest and youngest among us is strong enough to overcome him.
Simply trusting every day;
Trusting, through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
The Widow's Son
Ahab was a wicked king of Israel. He forsook the service of the true God, and built a temple to his idol in the city of Samaria, and set up another image in a grove of trees. There is a fearful character given of him in the Bible. It is said, "He did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him."
One day an aged man stood before king Ahab; his dress was a coarse garment, called sackcloth, perhaps made of the hair of camels. The look of the old man was grave and sorrowful. He had to deliver a message from God to the king, and to declare that the whole people of Israel were soon to be punished for their sin. When the king and his nobles looked on him, they knew that it was the prophet Elijah.
The prophet did not fear the angry looks of Ahab, but spoke boldly thus: "As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word."
No rain for years! Then in that hot country, the fields, the trees, and every green thing would wither, and there would be no food for man, and the cattle would die of thirst.
God then spake to Elijah, and directed him to go to a solitary place where a brook of water ran, and where He would cause the ravens to feed him. The prophet went as he was told, and in that lonely spot he spent about a year, drinking of the brook, and supplied with food by birds of the air. Though no human being was near him, he was happy, for God was with him, and he knew he was safe under His care.
Months passed away, and no rain nor dew had fallen on the earth. The brook became more and more narrow. The grass and rushes which grew on its banks had quite withered. The pebbles and roots which had been washed by the stream were left dry; and the branches of the trees were scorched and bare. The brook now ceased to flow. There may have been a little water in the hollows, but at last all was dried up. The Lord could have given water to Elijah by miracle, but He was pleased to tell him to depart, saying, "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." God did not send him to any of the widows of Israel, but to a poor woman in a heathen part of the land. He at once obeyed, for he knew there are wise and good reasons for all God does.
It was a long journey through the whole of the land to Zarephath. The prophet must have been tired when he came near to the place, and needed rest and food. As he drew towards the gate of the city he saw a poor widow gathering sticks. God in some way let him know that she was to give him food during the remainder of the days of famine. He then asked her for some water; and as she turned away to obtain it he directed her also to give him a morsel of bread. This seemed out of her power. She replied,
"As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die."
Elijah must have looked upon her with pity; but he told her to fear not, and to go and prepare first a cake for him, and then make for herself and her son. But how could she take the last morsel from her hungry child, and give it to a stranger. It was because the woman saw that he was a holy man and a prophet, and she had faith that the God of Israel would provide for her. The bread was soon made in thin cakes, and given to Elijah; and from that day a blessing came upon her, and she, her son, and the prophet were miraculously supplied.
One day the little son of the widow was taken ill, and died. Have you ever seen a dear child lying cold and pale, and in a coffin? Was it your infant brother or sister? Did you not grieve and weep at the loss of one you loved? If so, you can understand how the widow felt when she saw the lifeless body of her only child. Her husband was dead, and now her child. Her last comfort and companion must be laid in the grave.
As the widow was weeping, she looked up and saw Elijah. In her agony, she at first thought that the prophet might have prayed to God to send this loss, to punish her for sin.
"Give me thy son," said the pious Elijah; and he took the body, carried it to his own chamber, and laid it upon the bed. After he had prayed to God, he stretched himself three times upon the body, and the soul of the child returned to it. What a sight that must have been, when the prophet took the boy in his arms, and carried him to his weeping mother! He now breathed again, his eyes were full of life, and with joy the widow again embraced her child.
We must all die, as the widow's son did. But there will be no prophet Elijah to bring us back to this life. We must be laid in the grave, and the home that once knew us will know us no more for ever, and the friends that weep over our bodies must see them carried from their sight. Where will our souls then be? They do not die; they are not placed in the grave with the body. They must either go home to Jesus in heaven, or go away from Him into hell; for so the Word of God teaches. Do you not wish to go to heaven? Surely you do. Then you must repent of your sins; your hearts must be given to Christ, and your lives be spent in the fear and love of God. If such is your happy case, at the great day when the dead shall be raised, a glorious and lovely body shall be given you. You shall then die no more, but be for ever happy with the Lord.
The Little Captive Maid
There lived in Syria a captain named Naaman. He was in great favor with his king because he had fought many battles, and saved his country. But in the midst of all his honors, God smote him with a disease called leprosy. This was a very sad affliction: the hair fell from the head, the nails from the hands; sores covered the body, and all strength and ease were taken away. No one could give Naaman relief; all his own money, and all the power of the king, could not cure him. It was a sad grief to him to think that he never should be well again.
Among his servants was a little girl, who, during the wars of Israel, had been carried away from her home. She was now a poor slave, far from her parents and those she loved. As the little captive looked on her master, she wished that he might again enjoy his health, and be free from all that he suffered. One day when waiting on her mistress, she said how much she wished her master would go to the prophet in Israel, who could cure him of his leprosy. This prophet was Elisha; and we may suppose that she had known of the great cures he had wrought, and she thought he was so kind, that if her master went to him he would be sure to return home quite well.
When the master was told of the words of the young slave-girl he believed them, and went to Elisha and returned to his house quite well.
How glad the little maid must have been when she saw her master coming back. How anxiously she must have looked at him to see if the ugly white sores had gone. How she must have thanked God for giving her courage to speak.
Can you not fancy, too, how kind Naaman and his wife must have been to the little maid? How they must have thanked her for what she had done.
In the conduct of the little captive maid we notice these good marks—
1. She was a benevolent child. Stolen from her dear parents, she was now a poor slave. Yet instead of anger against her master, she felt only love and kindness. If like some children, she had been sullen and unforgiving, Naaman would not have been cured of his disease. Let us learn to return good for evil.
2. She was a truth-telling little maid, or her master would not have left his home, and taken with him gold, silver, and garments, and have gone a journey of one hundred miles, merely upon her word. If he had known that she told lies, he would not have gone to this trouble and expense. He would probably have said, "Why should I attend to what that slave-girl says, whom I have so often found speaking falsely? No, I cannot believe her words." But he did credit what she said; and thus showed he knew that at all times she loved to speak the truth. What a lesson is here for young and old!
3. She was a useful girl. When all the physicians in Syria could not restore her master, she told him how he might be healed. She was of more value to him than all his bags of gold and silver, and all the favor of the king. A very young Christian may tell the most important of all truths to a sinner — that Jesus is the only Savior, and that all who believe in Him will be saved.
4. She was a pious child. She had not forgotten the prophet who had power to heal. She was a little missionary. If we were carried away into a land of idols, how would it be with us? Should we be able and willing to direct any one of the heathen to a greater prophet than Elisha, even the Lord Jesus, and tell of His precious blood, which alone can take away the leprosy of sin?
Josiah became king of Judah when he was only eight years old. His grandfather Manasseh, and his father Amon, had forsaken the worship of the true God. Nearly all the priests had become evil, and served at the altars of idols; and the people also were wicked and corrupt.
We may picture to ourselves the young king Josiah. His dress was of a fine linen, of a purple color; for silk was not in use among the Jews in those days. On his head was a broad stout band, called a diadem. This was a kind of crown, shining with gold and costly pearls. There were also pearls and gems around his neck and arms. In this splendid dress he sat on a high throne, perhaps the one made by Solomon, which was wholly of gold and ivory. In his right hand he held a scepter, or staff, overlaid with gold, as a sign of his kingly power. His house was a beautiful palace, which had lovely gardens, and groves, and fountains of water. Every day the choicest food was spread upon his table. When he rode abroad it was in a fine chariot, drawn by horses, which were then scarce, and only used by royal persons. If he went a long journey, servants ran before him to tell the people that he was coming. The greatest persons in the land came out to meet him, and bowed to the ground when they came nigh to him. Guards and other servants waited on him at all times, ready to attend to his will. Now, though all this is not told us in the Bible about Josiah, we know that thus kings were honored in the East, and we may well suppose that the youthful prince thus began his reign.
There was no greater person in the kingdom than Josiah. He could do what he pleased, and there was no one to call him to an account. How was it, then, that he did not live a wicked life like his father? It was because "his heart was tender, and he humbled himself before God." He also had a true friend in Hilkiah, the high priest, who led him in the ways of the Lord.
In the twelfth year of his reign he sent men through the land to break down the altars and images of the false gods. And as the temple of the true God had fallen into decay, he had it repaired, and gave much money for this purpose. He made a great feast when the temple was again built up, and offered a present of forty thousand lambs and kids for sacrifice, besides oxen and calves. While they were cleansing the temple, a copy of the law of God was found, which he caused to be read to all the people. In these ways he showed his deep concern for the honor and worship of God; and he was made a great blessing in his own day, and a bright example for every following age. Josiah was slain in battle, though he died in peace with God.
Although the readers of this book are not kings or queens, there is much in the conduct of Josiah which deserves their notice. Though they have not his royal state, they should have his pious spirit. To enable them to know what that spirit was, they may observe these three things—
1. In Josiah is seen the piety of a youth:
"While he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father." The Lord claims the first and best of all we have and all we are; and He has a right to all.
2. Josiah showed his love to the Word of God. What should we be if the Bible were lost, and not a copy to be had? Should we show the same love and zeal for the holy book as the young king did, if, after it had been lost for some years, it were put again into our hands? You should praise God that you have the Bible, and pray that His Holy Spirit may impress your hearts with the truth it contains, so that you may become "wise unto salvation."
3. Seek to have a humble and tender heart. If you ask God to give you a "new heart," He will grant your desire.
The Holy Child Jesus
In the beginning before the heaven and earth were made, Jesus the Word, was with God, and He was God. But when the fulness of the time was come, the Lord Jesus laid aside His glory and came into this world — the world that was made by Him — and He was born a babe in Bethlehem. The name Jesus means Saviour and He came to save His people from their sins. He was Immanuel, which means God with us, and yet He was born in the stable of an inn, with a manger where oxen fed as a cradle, "because there was no room for them in the inn."
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Had Jesus only been the son of an earthly king, what a great to-do there would have been at His birth; but even though He was the Son of God whose coming had been foretold by the Old Testament prophets, it seems as if none would have noticed the actual birth of Jesus if the angel of the Lord had not appeared to some shepherds "keeping watch over their flock by night," and told them that a Saviour, Christ the Lord, was now lying a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
No sooner was the good news told the shepherds, than "there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Then the shepherds left their flocks to seek Jesus. And having seen Him, they spread the good tidings abroad. Many "heard" and "wondered," but alas we do not read that many went to worship Him.
As a Jewish child the ordinance of circumcision was performed upon Jesus when He was eight days old. Then after a certain number of days, according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice. As they came into the Temple bringing the little child in their arms, there was a just and devout man named Simeon who took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God: for in Jesus he saw God's salvation, and "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." And the aged prophetess, Anna, "gave thanks likewise unto the Lord and spake of Him [Jesus] to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem."
If there were few who knew of Jesus' birth, God did not allow them to remain in ignorance of this great event. For soon there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, and they earnestly asked, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him." This question troubled Herod and "all Jerusalem with him." These strangers had, at the sight of "His star," left their homes, and had taken a long journey because they wanted to worship Him. And Herod called "all the chief priests and scribes of the people together," and these all agreed in saying, that Bethlehem was the city in which Christ was to be born, for it was foretold by the prophet Micah.
Yet although all these men knew this, we do not read that any of them went to Bethlehem, to seek Jesus. But the wise men, guided by the star, went there; and there they worshiped Him, and presented before Him the gifts they had brought. And then they returned to their own homes. After all this, how could any person in Israel say that they had not heard of His birth? Why, then, did they not all seek Him?
Though Israel did not seek Jesus to worship Him, King Herod sought the young child to destroy Him. While God in His love to us sent His Son into the world, this wicked man sought to murder Him. Herod sent his cruel soldiers to kill all the children of Bethlehem from two years old and under, but the child Jesus was not slain. For before the soldiers came, an angel had warned Joseph to take Mary and the young child and to flee with them into Egypt.
And He was gone — the Son of God was gone. He had departed from Israel, and was fled to a strange country. What a solemn day this was in Israel's history! Yet we do not read of any tears being shed to mourn His departure and it would appear that none noticed when He fled. Was He missed at all? Was He sought after by any? Did no one anxiously cry, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him?"
Then Herod, the enemy of the Lord, died. Israel sent no swift messenger to bring Him back from Egypt, but God called His Son out of Egypt. As none had noticed when He fled, so no one seems to have noticed His return. Joseph was afraid to return with Jesus to Bethlehem, so he returned into Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. And the child Jesus was brought up, and there He lived for nearly thirty years, unnoticed and forgotten by Israel.
It is important to say a few words about the "holy child Jesus." For He was as much the Son of God when He lay a little child in His mother's arms, as He was when he had grow up, and had become the man Christ Jesus. The wonder of it all! The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was with God before the heaven and earth were made, who was God, was born a little baby. And as He grew up, He had the feelings of a child, He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet He was without sin. And from the moment of His birth, until He ascended up to Heaven after His resurrection, it was His delight to do the will of God. He never ceased to serve His God. He was holy; the only holy child, the only holy man, that ever walked this earth.
And when He could walk up and down the hills of Nazareth, He acted in obedience, as a good son. He never said a naughty word, He never told a lie. He never said an unkind word, He never called another boy bad names. He did not despise His mother. He did not go with wicked boys to do evil. He did always those things that pleased the His Father.
The last recorded event in the childhood of Jesus relates to his parents going to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. For when Jesus was twelve years old, He was taken by His mother, and Joseph, to this feast. It was a long journey of about seventy miles for them to travel from Nazareth, their dwelling-place, to Jerusalem. In those days there were not the smooth roads we have now; and as the family were poor, they no doubt walked all the way, and had not many comforts on the road.
Joseph and Mary stayed a week in Jerusalem, and then prepared to return to their home. After they had gone a short distance on the way they missed Jesus. At first they thought He was with some of their friends behind, or that He was in the company of some of those who had gone on before. But as evening came on, when travelers put up their tents to rest themselves for the night, they became more concerned that they could not find Him. Fearing He had been left in the great city, Mary and Joseph hastened back to the place, and sought for Him three days in vain. How sad must have been her heart when she thought Mary had lost her dear son, and when he was so far away from home! At last she found Him; but where? It was in the temple. Jesus was there, not gazing on the beautiful building, or the costly things within it — He was found among the doctors, or learned men of the Jews "both hearing them and asking them questions." We are not told what Jesus asked, or what He answered, though we do know He spoke so wisely and modestly that they were astonished at what they heard. They had never listened to such a child before.
When Mary had found her blessed Son, she said to Him, "Why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." Then Jesus replied, "How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not [or, Do you not know] that I must be about My Father's business?" While He was always obedient to His mother, and to Joseph, yet He wished them to remember that He had come to do the will of His Heavenly Father.
We may be sure that Jesus spoke to His mother in a loving and proper manner. He did not refuse to return to His home. He soon left the temple, and went with her to Nazareth, where, as a child, He was still "subject to her;" that is, He loved and obeyed her as a dutiful son. He lived in her lowly home, shared her humble fare, and was the companion and kind friend of those who lived in the little town.
After this, all that is told us of the childhood of Jesus is that "He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."
Is it not wonderful that Jesus, who, as the Scriptures say, is "God over all, blessed for ever," should come into the world that He had made; that He should come in our nature; that He should be the "Babe of Bethlehem," the "Man of Sorrows," and at last die a painful and shameful death, and by His death atone for our sins? Surely it was all in love and mercy for us.
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus! And now He sits exalted at the right hand of God, and "He is able also to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by Him." Won't you come beloved one and receive the Lord Jesus as your Saviour?
Even as a child, you can learn of Him and live for Him. "The holy child Jesus" is the brightest and most perfect example for each of us to follow. We may try to imitate the early piety of Moses and Samuel, or the zeal of young Josiah, or the meekness and charity of the little captive maid; but in Jesus there is everything that is lovely, wise, and good. He is the safest and best pattern. They were all sinners by nature and practice; but His nature was pure and holy, and His whole life was without the least stain. Won't you follow in His steps?
Born among cattle, in poverty sore,
Living in meekness by Galilee's shore,
Dying in shame as the wicked ones swore:
Jesus, wonderful Lord!
Wonderful, wonderful Jesus!
He is my friend, true to the end;
He gave Himself to redeem me—
Jesus, wonderful Lord!
Little Children Brought To Jesus
When our Lord Jesus Christ was on the earth, He was once displeased. It was not because they called Him evil names; it was not that they charged Him with having an evil spirit; it was not when they took up stones to kill Him, and when they cast Him out of the city; nor was it when they mocked and scourged Him, nor when they nailed Him to the cross, and derided Him in His pain. He bore all this with meekness, like a lamb. But when Jesus saw that His disciples would have kept little children from coming to Him, He was "much displeased," and said to them, "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
Why did the disciples wish to keep them back? Why did they stand in the way, and forbid them from coming to Jesus? Had they not often seen how kind and loving He was even to the weakest and the poorest? Surely before this they must have seen His tender regard to the young. But while the disciples would have kept the children away, Jesus looked upon their young faces; He told the mothers and friends to bring the children to Him, and as He looked upon them He showed how much He love them. "He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them."
You know the old hymn which begins—
I think when I read that sweet story of old
When Jesus dwelt here among men,
And called little children like lambs to His fold,
I should like to have been with them then.
I wish that His hands had been put on my head,
And that I had been placed on His knee,
And that I might have seen His kind look when He said,
"Let the little ones come unto me."
You think if Jesus were now on earth it would be easy to go to Him. You would ask your parents to take you to Him. But you can approach Him, now He is in heaven, more easily than you could if He were on earth. How could children who live in America get to Jesus at Jerusalem? How could the little Hindoos or Africans reach Him, or the young in China, or the South Seas? Thousands of miles by land and by water would have to be passed before you or they could get to Him. And then, how could the poor obtain the money, or find the time, that would be needful? Yes, it is better that Jesus is in heaven; and we can all draw nigh to Him, from all parts of the world, at one time; and we are sure that the same love which led Him to receive little children many years ago, will lead Him to receive and bless them now.
There is everything in Jesus to win your heart. He is meek, lowly, and full of love. He can do you all the good you need, and save you from all the evil you fear. If you are a poor child, He can make you rich with the best riches, for He can give you His grace. If you are an ignorant child, He can give you His Holy Spirit to teach you. If you are an orphan child, He can be better to you than father or mother and all earthly friends. If you are an afflicted child, He can comfort and bless you. But one thing is certain: you are a sinful child, and if you wish to be saved, you must go to Jesus. He will save you from the power of sin, and from its guilt and punishment. He obeyed His Father's law, and died on the cross, that He might save all who believe on Him. He is a kind friend, a rich friend, a powerful friend, an ever living friend. He is so kind. He will give you everything you need. He is so rich that He can give it to you. He is so strong that He can protect you from all your foes. He never dies, and His friendship can never end. Go then to Jesus. He will make you happy while you live, happy when you die, and happy for ever in Heaven with Him.
The Ruler's Daughter
Jesus is the good physician: He cured all kinds of diseases without delay, without money, and without pain. The blind were made to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and the dead were raised to life again. Among those who died, and had their lives restored, was a little girl about twelve years old.
Jesus was sitting in the house of Levi, or Matthew, when there came to Him a person named Jairus. He was one of the chief people in the town where he lived; he was also a ruler, whose duty it was to take care of the synagogue, or house in which the Jews met to read the Scriptures and pray to God. His little daughter lay at the point of death. As he had heard of the wonders done by Jesus, he thought he might also obtain help for his child.
We may suppose we see him, asking directions to the house where Jesus was, and as he goes along, perhaps, saying to himself, "I have heard of the great and strange things He has done; I will try what He can do for me. Surely He will not slight the case of my dear child, for they say He is ready to relieve all who apply to Him."
When Jairus came to the house, he saw Jesus teaching the people, for Jesus was always "doing good." He quickly went towards Him, threw himself at His feet, and told Him of the case of his youthful daughter. Jesus listened to his sad tale, and His heart felt a tender pity for the parent and for the child. He was at once moved to help them; for when did He ever refuse to relieve the afflicted and distressed? He could have spoken a word, and she would have been made well, though He did not go to her; but He rose up and went out: for another miracle was to be worked as He passed along. This was upon a poor woman who had been afflicted for twelve years. How Jairus must have rejoiced when he saw the cure on the woman! Now, he must have thought, I am sure He can heal my child, for I have seen a proof of His great power.
But there came from the Jairus' house "certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?" Oh! how the father's heart sank in grief! But Jesus turned to him, and kindly said, "Be not afraid; only believe, and she shall be made whole."
They now all went forward. As they came near to the ruler's house they heard the friends weeping within, and the minstrels playing in front of the door. It was the custom in that land to hire women to mourn for the dead, who also played doleful tunes on the tambourines and pipes. Jesus at once went into the house, along with three of His disciples and the parents of the child.
He first spoke a word of comfort to the parents: "The maid is not dead, but sleepeth" -- meaning, that her death was only like a short sleep. He then took her hand, and bade her rise. The word was no sooner spoken than the spirit of the child came back to the cold body. The color of health again glowed on her cheeks, and she arose, as if she had just awoke from a pleasant sleep.
The parents embrace their child with joy, and then, as we suppose, fall at the feet of Jesus, to thank and adore Him for this act of might and mercy.
In this beautiful account which is given us in the New Testament we may see—
1. The power of Jesus. He can do more than we ask or think. The ruler asked Him to cure his sick child, and He raised back to life his dead child. Jesus can raise our souls from a state of sin; and there is coming a day when He will raise our bodies from the grave.
2. The love of Jesus. "He went about doing good." He did good every day. It was His delight to do good. Sometimes He taught the people; sometimes He worked miracles. He showed His love to the poor and to the rich; to the young and to the old. His love is still the same: it can never change. Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8)
Timothy was a disciple and friend of the Apostle Paul. A disciple means a learner, a scholar. When Timothy was a young man, he heard the Apostle preach, and the Holy Spirit blessed what was preached to the good of his soul. From that time he loved to be with so wise and kind a teacher. Sometimes they went on long missionary journeys together, to make known the way in which sinners can be saved, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. There are two epistles, or letters, in the New Testament which were written by the Apostle to Timothy. If you read these letters, you will see what good advice the Apostle Paul gave to Timothy, and how much he loved him.
We place Timothy among the children of the Bible, because it is said of him, "From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15). He had a grandmother named Lois, and a pious mother named Eunice. When very young, they taught him from the Word of God. Happy Timothy, to stand by the side of a dear mother, and hear from her lips the great things God had done for His people in every age!
Jewish children were taught by their parents at home, and were often taken by them to the temple to see the sacrifices offered. No doubt young Timothy had been told by his pious mother how God saved Noah in the ark, and Daniel in the den of lions; how David slew the giant Goliath with a sling and stone, and how Elijah was fed by ravens in a desert. These, and a hundred other beautiful stories, she told him from the sacred Book. Then, too, she taught him that the Passover was kept because the angel of God passed over the Hebrews, and slew the Egyptians; and that the lamb was offered every day in the temple as an atonement for sin. She must also have told him of the great things God had done for their nation, and that He had promised to send them a Saviour. All this instruction was very useful to Timothy when he grew up and became a preacher of the Gospel. He must often have praised God for giving him such a pious family and friends to care for him and teach him.
Timothy did not have a complete Bible, as we have, nor was his book like what we use. It was probably made of long sheets of parchment, and was rolled upon a short stick. It was not printed, for printing was not then invented, but written with a kind of steel pen. It was too large to put into a pocket and must have cost a large sum of money. A poor child in those days did not have a copy of the Scriptures which he could call his own. He could not say, "This is my own Bible."
As Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures from an early age, so it is important for young children today to know the same Holy Scriptures that they might learn of God and His way of salvation through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Bible is God's inspired Word which He has preseved for us and we need to know it if we are to live lives pleasing to God.
As we conclude this little book of the children of the Bible, let us observe these things about the Bible—
1. It should be read. The word Bible means "book," and Scriptures means "writings." It is the best of all books and all writings; for it is the very Word and will of God. It speaks only truth, and is full of the greatest truths. It has done more good in the world than all other books. Everyone has to do with what the Bible makes known. It teaches about God and man, and this world and the world to come. Good men in all ages have loved it.
2. The Bible should be read by children. It is not for aged persons alone. We have seen that there is much in this Holy Book about the young, and for the young; it was put there on purpose to teach them.
It is true there are some things in the Bible hard to be understood. Many years ago a pious man said, "It is like a river: so deep in the middle that an elephant may swim in it, but along the shore a lamb may wade, and not be drowned." You should be like the lamb. There are truths in the Scriptures which the wisest cannot fully understand; but if we have sincere and prayerful hearts, we may learn all that we need to know. If a child seeks to learn from the Bible, and asks God for His blessing, he will become wise, good, and happy.
3. The Bible can make children "wise unto salvation" through faith in Christ Jesus. It teaches us many things; but its great end is to lead to the salvation of the soul. It tells us of the love of a Saviour, of what He is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do for those who believe in Him. Jesus says that we should "search the Scriptures," for they testify of Him. You should search with as much zeal as men seek for jewels in a mine. It contains "the pearl of great price."
You should read the Bible often, and read it daily. A wise man once said, "Get a little at a time, and as often as you can, and you will soon know a great deal." It is like a gold mine, where a man may dig every day of his life, and find much gold, and yet there will be plenty left for others.
You should also pray to God to teach you. David was a great and pious man, and he prayed thus: "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law." If David so prayed, surely you should ask God to help you.
Happy will you be if you should be like a little boy who learned a verse every day, and when he grew up to be a man, that which he had learned in youth was blessed in leading him to love and serve the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
From The Children of the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, [ca. 1900].