A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him ...
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:1-6 NIV).
When I first took a class on family and marital therapy in grad school, I could understand the argument, but thought it was overstated. As I grew older and the Lord blessed us with two children, it was no longer questionable theory. It became the unquestioned reality. The principle is simple: you don't determine the stage of a family by the age of the parents, but by the developmental stage of the oldest child in the family. Isaiah words are right: "A child will lead them" ... kicking and screaming through the developmental stages of life!
I'm not sure that's what Isaiah had in mind when he shared his prophecy of salvation and deliverance. In fact, I'm very sure he was thinking about something — or better yet, Somone — else. I am, however, amazed at how often children really do lead their parents. Sure, parents get dragged through all sorts of things with their first child. Yes, the age and developmental challenges of the child have a great impact on the family. Yet in addition, there are many other ways children lead their parents.
For many parents, having a child and thinking about the morals and values necessary for their child to navigate his or her way through the difficult choices of life often lead them back to church. Yes, a child will lead them!
Having to deal with difficult choices of their child's care, curfews, friends, exposure to drugs, temptation toward pre-marital sex, and a host of other things means the child leads them through some serious soul searching. Yes, a child will lead them!
For some parents, a special needs child leads them to a profound awareness of the incredible value of every human life by God. Some of these even find a deeper understanding of God behind the impenetrable vocabulary of their children who seem so much more aware of God's presence and so much less distracted by the unimportant things of life. Yes, a child will lead them!
For parents, the birth of a child often leads them to deeper appreciation of their own parents and the sacrifices their parents made for growing up that they never knew or understood until they had their own children. Yes, a child will lead them!
Little children often lead parents and grandparents to a new level of adult appreciation for each other and the gift and blessing of partnership over the years. Yes, a child will lead them!
For parents in the latter years of life, when mind or body or both begin to deteriorate, a child does lead them and care for them and protect them and provides for them. Yes, a child will lead them! A child shall lead them. God's gift of new hope, new opportunity, and new life begins in the miracle of a life brought into existence with the partnership of the most basic of human desires and the glorious miracle of God's work inside a mother's womb. So it's no wonder that those who believe in God so highly value the gift of any child to the world. This is also why so many see the gift of the child Jesus to Joseph and Mary as the most awesome gift of all.
For those of us who truly believe, no matter what turns our life may take, whether we have children of our own or not, we believe that a child — the child raised by Joseph and Mary and conceived by power of the Holy Spirit — will lead us. We trust that we will never walk alone (Romans 8:31-39) ... that we will never be forsaken or forgotten (Hebrews 13:5-6) ... and in our darkest of hours, we know that just as Simon of Cyrene helped carry Jesus' cross, this child will help us carry ours.
A child shall lead them.
A child shall lead us.
A child shall lead me ...