He, that being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.
Here is the story of the rebellious child, and it is repeated a million times in every generation. From the time this boy was a toddler, he resisted his mother’s admonitions. He threw a tantrum every time his father used the rod. He screamed, spit at, and hit his father. As time went on, his parents resorted to psychotropic drugs to quell his violence, and they felt compelled to give in to his constant demands. Through his teen years, they hesitated to correct him or require anything of him for fear of his dishonoring, sullen, or angry response. In total, he may have been corrected 50,000 times over a period of ten to fifteen years. But with each correction, he took the opportunity to harden his neck a little bit more. According to this verse, the demise of this young man will be quick, and there will be no room for repentance at that time. The same scenario is revisited in Hebrews 6:4–6 for the man who has “tasted of the spiritual gift” and rejected it. There is something known as the “point of no return” in the path of rebellion.
It would be well then, for our children to take fair warning from this passage. Our children must not tempt God by constant and perpetual rebellion to the teaching, the correction, and the warnings He has given to them. God is patient and merciful, but a rebellious child can push Him too far, even in covenant homes where believing parents continually teach God’s Word to their children.
But now, what does this say to parents or teachers who must work with those who are full of this hard-hearted rebellion? At what point do they give up all hope for repentance? Certainly, parents must try to contain the rebellion and do what they can to prevent a cancerous spread of the rebellion into others around them. If they countenance rebellion in any way, it almost certainly will play into the lives of the other children in the home—even into the more mild mannered of them. If it becomes impossible to contain the rebellion, then of course, the young rebel simply cannot remain in the home, and his father and mother may continue to pray that God would sovereignly work a heart-change in the rebel. But this is in His hands. To ignore a child’s rebellion while counting on God’s gracious work in the life of the child is presumption and detracts from the glory of God. This was Eli’s mistake, and God cursed his family for it for multiple generations (1 Sam. 3:11–14). God is not obligated to save every one of our children. He chose not to save Esau, a circumcised son of the covenant (Rom. 9:13). Yet, we are still hopeful and believing, eagerly expectant of His mercies and grateful for every act of heart-softening we see in our families.
There is a fine line between faithlessness and presumption in child raising. We ought not to turn our children into idols, but we should take advantage of the gracious means God has given us to raise our children in the covenant. As a farmer plants the seeds and diligently waters his crops, he is hopeful of God’s good blessings in the harvest. Parents ought therefore to be good farmers. We plant the seeds, teach the Word, and water the plants. We baptize and then we teach them some more. After eighteen years, we look up and see what God has done for us! To disciple the nations we baptize and teach them to observe whatsoever Jesus has commanded in His Word. This is the great commission, and we start by discipling a very small nation called a “family” (Matt. 28:18–20).
1. What will happen to a chronic teenage rebel according to this text? Are there any exceptions to this?
2. How should parents handle rebellion in a child?
3. As parents, do you err on the side of presumption or faithlessness?