The finest thing

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Around the time of WW2 there was a school principal named A Janse, a God-fearing man with a deep knowledge of Scripture, who wrote much about reformed education. Here’s what he said about the finest thing we can do, in contrast to what some may think:

The finest and highest thing one can do is not: to eat and drink and be happy – although Scripture does value this enjoyment of God’s gifts (Eccl 5:18; 8:15; 9:7).

It is also not: being finely dressed and enjoying the blessings of abundance – although Scripture also commends that to whom it is given (Eccl. 9:8).

It’s also not the joyful life together of husband and wife – although Scripture repeatedly presents that as a delightful gift of God (Eccl. 9:9).

It’s also not doing your work with all your might in whatever field of endeavour – although Scripture says that we should do that with all our strength and that finding enjoyment therein is a gift of God (Eccl 5:18; 9:10).

It’s also not being rich and having the ability to accumulate wealth – for Scripture often presents it as foolishness and dangerous (Prov 30:8,9).

It’s also not music and song – although Solomon loved it and found delight in it.

It’s also not speaking words of wisdom – although Scripture values that highly.

It’s also not acting justly in weights and measures and matters of justice – although that’s highly commended in Scripture.

It’s also not living a good moral life – although God’s people are strongly warned and even threatened with God’s wrath if they ignore God’s commandments and behave shamefully in their walk of life.

It’s not even believing in Christ – although the whole Scripture calls people to accept God’s Word and to believe in the Son.

It’s also not to be very active in God’s Kingdom – although the Lord has promised a great reward for those who are.

But the highest and finest is to have that love for God whereby God’s people stand in amazement. It’s the love that the Church as Bride embraces so that she praises the Bridegroom for His beauty. The whole Scripture is ultimately one long song of praise to the LORD, the God of the Covenant, for that God who reveals Himself in Christ in all His love for His church. It is the praise of the Hallelujah in Ps. 150.[i]

Know God

If that be so, what can we do to arouse that praise and to facilitate that love and delight in God? The obvious answer is to get to know Him better, to open our eyes and ears and hearts far more for His greatness, His qualities, His awesome power, incomprehensible wisdom, His radiant majesty and goodness, His absolute perfection, justice, mercy, love, constant blessings, etc.

Day unto day pours forth speech (Psalm 19:2).

we believe and confess that Where are two ways in which He reveals these attributes to us. First, through creation, “which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature… (BCF 2). Hence David rapturously cries:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
[ii]

Second, we confess in that same article that God makes himself known to us more clearly and fully by His holy and divine Word … to His glory and our salvation. By reading that Word we are exposed to the wonderful deeds of the LORD in the history of salvation—his amazing deeds of perfect creation and of continually upholding the universe, his perfect and awesome justice whereby his curse rested on the world when we rebelled against Him, his electing and redeeming love and care for his people, his delightful grace and mercy in Christ our Saviour through whom the curse is removed from us and his wonderful sanctifying work through the Holy Spirit. All this is to arouse in us a constant delight, thanks, love and obedient service and praise to our Triune God.

Of course, as Janse says, the perfect service of God and the perfect hallelujahs for God’s great works in nature and history will come when we and our children stand before the throne of the Lamb. However, in preparation for the day of His return we will now aspire to devote our whole life and that of our children in thankful submission to the Word of the LORD.

What about our children?

Tell the children about God’s great deeds. Moses pointing his staff to heaven to show where the help comes from, during the battle with the Amalekites. Illustration: J H Isings.

How do we get the children entrusted to our care to love and praise and serve the LORD with all their hearts? The psalmist says: we will tell the coming generations the wonderful works God has done (Ps 74). In Israel all the feasts and laws (e.g., about dedicating the first-born male to the LORD), the sacrifices and piles of stones, were so many opportunities for parents to tell the children about God’s great deeds. And when Moses tells the people of Israel to love the LORD your God with all their heart, soul and strength, he adds: you shall tell the children of God His laws and ways when you sit and walk and lie down and rise up. In other words, continually.

School children at the zoo.

Today that’s the challenge for us in our homes, churches and schools. To be sure, we cannot give the children faith; God does it. He sanctifies the children in Christ and works in them by the Holy Spirit, as promised at baptism.  But He requires parents to instruct them (e.g., at home) and have them instructed (e.g., at school) using God’s covenant Word to direct and underpin all they say and do.

In the homes Godly parents who themselves have a deep inner joy in and love for the LORD will reflect that in their walk and talk. They will, like David, stand in awe at the creative power of the Lord displayed in the amazing and vast universe, of the Father’s wonderful loving care for His children throughout history, of the Son’s great work of rescuing and redirecting us and of the Holy Spirit working faith and renewal in us. Mothers will exploit opportunities to talk about the Lord with their children and read or tell Bible stories, for example at bed time. Fathers will explain Bible readings at the dinner table and discuss current issues in the light of God’s Word. Both will show in the daily life and interaction with the children their sincere love, gratitude, trust and obedience to their covenant God. Godly parents will also try to free themselves from the humanism whereby everything focusses on the persons—on their ‘development’, on their ‘achievement’—but will instead direct everything to God’s glory for all the wonders He has done.

In the churches ministers will proclaim the great deeds of the LORD in the history of salvation, showing how history is the framework for God’s redemptive work in Christ. Sermons will show how Adam rebelled against the Father, infecting all mankind, and how Christ stands at the centre of world history, doing what the first Adam failed to do, glorifying God, serving Him faithfully and, through his suffering and death, reconciling all things to the Father (Col. 1:20). He is the One we now await with ardent expectation.

As for the schools, they will, as Rev C Stam says, provide covenantal education which will likewise focus on the great deeds of the LORD. They may introduce the covenant children, as co-heirs with of the promise, to the riches of God’s creation, to the progression of His history, and show them: THIS IS GOD, YOUR GOD, SERVE HIM.[iii] God’s Word is to give meaning to all the lessons with the aim that these children will more and more walk with the Lord, more and more reflect His image, more and more love and serve Him with joy and thankfulness and in accordance with the skills and talents given them. In this way teachers help parents and the church prepare these covenant children for the three-fold office into which they have been anointed with Christ – the mandate to confess Christ, thankfully serve Him with all their might, and to fight faithfully against sin and Satan and the world.

Everything is to direct us and our children to stand in awe and love and appreciation of our covenant God so that His great and awesome name would receive all praise (first petition of the Lord’s Prayer). Ruled by God’s Word and Spirit we see ourselves instruments in God’s hand for the promotion of His kingdom and the pushing back of Satan’s kingdom (second and third petition). That is the glorious, meaningful lives we may and must live, the finest thing we can do, since it pleases the Holy Spirit to use it to the great glory of our incomprehensibly wonderful, triune, God to whom be all praise now and forever.

 

[i] Quoted by J L Struik in “Een school naar de opvatting van A. Janse”, Gereformeerd Schoolblad, May 1990, Vol. 7:2. Translation by J Numan.
[ii] Psalm 19.
[iii] “Covenantal Education” by Rev Clarence Stam – Defence of the Truth