On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.
I Samuel 15: 17-21
Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' Why did you not obey the LORD ? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD ?" "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."
These passages fill me with a holy fear as a parent. I did not participate in a religious ceremony in front of the local church, like so many evangelical parents do, when I dedicated my children to the Lord. I prayed a personal prayer of dedication the moment I found out I was pregnant each time. My husband, also, laid his hands on my belly and we gave our children to the Lord, committing ourselves to doing our best to serve him as parents. We did this in holy fear, aware that putting a stumbling block in the life of one of His little ones is a serious crime. We did this reverently, aware that even the giving of a cup of cold water to a little one in the name of Jesus is noted in heaven and considered by God a worthy act.
No that it matters where you are when you dedicate your children to the Lord. I have no argument against having a ceremony about it in church if someone feels led to do that. We had our reasons for keeping it private, but that is not the topic of this blog post. Maybe someday, but probably not since it is so personal and not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. :)
What is so very important, extremely important, is that the dedicated things belong to the Lord! Once you dedicate a child to God, they belong to the Lord. You may not keep them to yourself. You may not keep them for righteous religious purposes. They are not yours anymore.
The devoted things belong to the Lord.
It is a grievous sin to hold on to devoted things. It is a grievous sin to take the devoted things and decide for yourself how they can be put to righteous use.
In the above passages, the devoted things were to be destroyed. I have often questioned why that is, and I think it is because the temptations to take the devoted things for ourselves is too great. Also perhaps in these instances of devoted things in war,it was to eliminate the temptation to take other people's things (lives?) and give them to the Lord in place of our own sacrifices. After all, Samuel wasn't upset that the people had grateful hearts and wanted to sacrifice to the Lord. He was upset that they were sacrificing the things devoted to God as if they were their own.
This speaks to me about parenting very strongly. The devoted things belong to the Lord.
The devoted things are not mine to keep. My children do not belong to me. Whatever good I have done as a parent, whatever damage I have done as a parent, in all events I was only a steward for a season. I dare not attempt to keep my children under my "authority". They have been dedicated to the Lord from the first days of their lives. They are under His authority. They have always been under His authority. That's why I am accountable to God for the cups of cold water and the stumbling blocks both.
My children are devoted to the Lord. I take my hands off in holy fear and commend them to the Lord again today. He is able to care for His own. I submit to you, Lord. I do not dare attempt to keep the devoted things for myself.
The devoted things are not mine to use in religious devotion to the Lord. I may not keep my children under my power in a misguided attempt to offer up their lives as a sacrifice to God. Their lives are not mine to offer. They already belong to the Lord.
No, any holy sacrifices I offer to the Lord will have to come from MY LIFE, not the lives of my children. I will have to bow MY heart to the Lord. I will have to sacrifice MY pride to the Lord. I will need to yield MY praises from MY lips, MY gratitude from MY heart. The only obedience I can offer up to the Lord is MY obedience.
It is no credit to me that I demand my children serve the Lord. In fact, it is taking the easy way out. It is offering up the already dedicated things as if it were a real sacrifice on my part. God forbid. The devoted things belong to the Lord.
When I hear or read of parents who demand their adult children's lives as their own- to make decisions for their children, order their children's lives as if those lives belonged to the parent, choosing their children's clothing, where their children will go, who their children can associate with- I am filled with holy fear. It would not suprise me at all if fire fell down from heaven and consumed such parents. They are keeping for themselves what is dedicated to the Lord.
These parents claim that since they are controlling their children's lives in order to offer those children up to the Lord, that their good religious intentions make it alright to keep the devoted things for themsleves. I tremble.
Seriously. I tremble. I fear God, and so I fear for these parents. It is a grievous sin they are committing against the Lord: keeping the devoted things for themselves.
If the above passages were truly written for our learning, then such parents can expect that they are bringing about their own destruction. Parents trying to offer up their children's lives as a sacrifice to God can expect to suffer loss.
Saul suffered the loss of his calling, Samuel told him that the Lord had rejected him as king. Saul suffered the loss of his peace of mind and became plaqued by evil spirits. Soothing Saul's troubled mind was a major reason that David was at the palace of Saul. Probably the greatest loss, though, was the loss of the promised legacy of kingship and annointing which should have belonged to Saul's children and grandchildren. Sad.
That is a lot of loss. I don't even want to guess how much would fall on my head if I kept the devoted things for myself. I will simply back away from the devoted things, rededicate MY life to God in prayer, and enjoy His presence as my life continues to unfold.
I think He can do a much better job with what belongs to Him than I ever could anyway. :)