Babies in the Bible: The Mystery of Children

People like to ask, “What kind of a God lets little children suffer?” Really they are asking, “What kind of a God lets children suffer before they are even old enough to know the comfort of faith?”

In the book of Job our attention is drawn to the case of the “stillborn child” who dies “without ever seeing the light of day” (3:16). While Job never develops this issue at any length, clearly the underlying message to his friends is, “Here is something your theology cannot touch.” And he is right. Theology cannot touch the mystery of faith as it pertains to a child—let alone to an unborn fetus. This is one area in which theologians are dumb, blind, foolish. Why? Because theology is for the adult mind. It is for the mature and the rational and the intelligent. Oswald Chambers put it this way:

A scientist can explain the universe in which common-sense men live, but the scientific explanation is not first; life is first. The same with theology: theology is the systematizing of the intellectual expression of life from God; it is a mighty thing, but it is second, not first. … If we put it first, we will do what Job’s friends did, refusing to look at facts and remaining consistent to certain ideas which pervert the character of God.

When it comes to the heart of a child, theology has nothing to say. Yet it has to say something (or thinks it does), and so it gets itself into a terrible mess. For example, some theologies allow children to die in Christ, but not to be baptized. Children are welcome to serve the Lord (in a church choir or pageant, let’s say), or to suffer unspeakably for His name, but they might not be welcome to be served or succored in turn at the Lord’s Table. And so it goes. Wherever it touches the lot of children, theology is a cripple, a lunatic, an undeveloped fetus of a thing. That is why Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21). He meant, of course, that a child may have a finer and a better-developed faith than an adult. Not only that, but “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

The Bible is full of babies, godly babies, who influenced the course of sacred history just as profoundly as any adult. Religious people may scoff at this notion, which is why the first of these wondrous infants was named Isaac, a word meaning laugh. Isaac was the original grace-child, the child of divine promise who simply by being born confounded all mature, responsible notions of religion and glorifled the God of grace. And then there was Moses. Who can doubt that the Lord was just as mightily at work, for the salvation of His people, in the baby Moses as He was in the adult Moses? Hebrews 11:23 tells us that “by faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child.” How did they know? What did they see in this tiny, mewling newborn? They must have seen something of what the shepherds saw when they entered the stable in Bethlehem, or of what Simeon and Anna saw in the temple when they broke into ecstatic prophecy before a tiny stranger, eight days old. Or consider the story of John the Baptist, whom Scripture records as being “filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth” (Luke 1:15). More remarkable still, when the Messiah was little more than a single cell inside the womb of a young virgin, at His first approach the baby John leapt in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41)—proving once and for all that even an unborn fetus can be a born-again Christian! God is sovereign! As Psalm 22:9 declares, “You made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.”

There is more here than meets the rational, theological eye. The life of a child may seem a simpler life than that of an adult, but it is still a moral life. Children are fully moral creatures who, somehow, make choices of their own from the time of conception. If a baby can be born in sin, then a baby can also be saved. For faith is not a faculty of the reason but of the spirit and the will. Jesus taught consitently that the way to know God is not merely by assenting to a creed, but by doing His will. Can a little child not fulfill the will of God? Is God’s will so complicated that only adults can do it? Has not God ordained praise “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings” (Ps. 8:2)?

An excerpt from The Gospel According to Job, pp 257-8

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