Eighth Day – The Child’s Surety

‘And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me; I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him.’ Gen. 43: 8, 9.

These are the words of Judah, when he sought to persuade his father to send Benjamin with him. And that he realized what his surety-ship for the child meant, and was ready at any sacrifice to fulfil its duties, is evident from his pleadings before Joseph, when he said, `Thy servant is become surety for the child with his father,’ and offered himself as slave in his brother’s place. In this he was not only the type of his own descendant, the great Surety of His people, who gave Himself in their stead; but also, because the spirit of self-sacrifice passes from the head to the body, of every parent to whom God commits the care of a child amid the dangers of the journey through life. The language and conduct of Judah will teach us some most suggestive lessons as to the little ones who have been entrusted to our charge.

Consider first the meaning of the engagement made. What else is our language, as in baptism we undertake to train a child for God, but this: `Send the child with me; I will be surety for him.’ In answer to the questions, How can that little one receive the mark of the covenant, and then be sent forth into a sinful world? Were it not better that it were removed at once from a world of sin to the Father’s home? Or else left without that sign of the covenant which has so often been but an empty form? The answer has been, `Send it with me; I will be surety for it.’ Most distinctly the question has often again been put to the trembling parents when the little one was threatened with sickness or death, Shall the child live or die? and the answer was heard again: Spare it, leave it, even though it be a world of danger; I will be surety for the child; of my hand shall You require it; send it with me. Solemn thought! Amidst all the dangers down in Egypt, and so many seen perishing, as parent I take charge of the child, and the great God may hold me responsible if I bring him not back to his father’s home in safety. With Judah I have spoken: ‘If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame forever!’

Consider, too, the duties of such a suretyship, as illustrated in Judah. He was thoroughly in earnest with the engagement he had undertaken. When the governor of Egypt had commanded that Benjamin should be kept as a slave, he at once came forward as a substitute. Not for a moment does he think of his own home and children, of Egyptian slavery and its hardships; everything gives way to the thought, My father entrusted him to me, and I am surety for the lad. With the most touching earnestness he pleads to be accepted in the youth’s stead: `Thy servant is become surety for the lad with his father. How shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? Now, therefore, let thy servant abide instead of the lad as bondman to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brethren.’

Would God that Christian parents realized, as Judah did, what it means that they are surety for their child! Alas! how often, when our children are in danger from the prince of this world, when the temptations of the flesh or the world threaten to make them prisoners and slaves, to hold them back from ever reaching the Father’s home — how often are we found careless or unwilling to sacrifice our ease and comfort in seeking to rescue them from their danger! How often the spiritual interests of the child are considered subordinate to worldly prospects or position or profit, and the solemn covenant forgotten in which we undertook to make it our first care that the child should not be lost to the Father in heaven! How feebly we realize that it is only in a life of pure and wholehearted devotion, in which the selfishness and worldly-mindedness of the world are crucified, and our life is lived for God, that we can really train children for heaven! And how little we have learnt, when danger threatens, and our children appear to be growing up unconverted, to bow at the foot of the throne, until we see that our plea, `I am surety for the child,’ has touched the heart of the King, and we have His word to set him free. Oh, that the ruling principle of parental life and love might be, Without the child I will not see my Father’s face.

Consider now, too, the encouragement Judah’s example gives. It sets before us the abundant reward the faithful surety will reap. In pleading with the ruler of Egypt, Judah thought he had to do with a stranger, a despot, and an enemy. Little did he know that his pleadings were entering the ears of one who was his own and Benjamin’s brother. He never dared to hope that it would exercise such a mighty influence, or call forth that wondrous revelation of the ruler falling weeping on Benjamin’s neck, with his, `I am Joseph.’ Wonderful picture of the power and the reward of a surety’s supplication!

And yet not more wonderful than the parent-surety may expect. Did we but more feel the sinfulness of our children’s nature, and the dangers surrounding them, with what fervency we should plead with the great King and Savior of the world for their salvation. It is there, not less than to Judah, that the blessing would come to us. It might be that at the first, as it was with him, we had no conception of the tender relation in which He stands to us and our children as a Brother: as we plead for the child, and show ourselves ready to make any sacrifice so he may be saved, we should have our reward in the blessed revelation of what Jesus is to us, as well as in the blessing on the child. The blessing to the pleading surety would be no less rich than to his charge. In Jairus, and the father of the lunatic, and the Syrophenician woman, and in the experience of ten thousand parents, we have proof that, while they only thought of obtaining what their children needed, their prayer led to experiences of the power and love of the Savior, to such closer and more intimate fellowship with Him, to such personal blessing as they never had found in only praying for themselves. They saw Him with whom they were pleading on the throne descend and say, I am Jesus; they saw Him embrace the beloved one they pleaded for and kiss him; Jesus was never so gloriously revealed as when they were pleading as parents and sureties for their children.

And just as Judah then learnt to understand how Joseph was the true surety, who in the path of suffering had won the throne and their deliverance from famine and death, so parents will learn, the more they seek to fulfil their duties as sureties, to know and rejoice in Jesus as their Surety. He has not only undertaken their own personal salvation: He has secured and vouchsafes the grace they need to fulfil their duties; He is the Surety for their suretyship, too, because theirs is grounded in His. The vicarious principle on which redemption rests, and in virtue of which He died, `One for all,’ runs through the whole of its economy; most specially does it appear in the family, that image of humanity as a whole. There the father is head, is priest, is king, even as Christ, over his own house; the father is, in limited sense, but most really, surety for the child. And now it is, as he, the surety on earth, under the burden of his charge, draws nigh to the King, and discovers in Him the Great Surety, that the revelation will give him new confidence and strength and joy in the work he has undertaken. In the light of the redemption and love and friendship of Jesus, the thought, `I am surety for the child,’ will gain new brightness, devotion to the training of the children will become more earnest, the readiness to make any sacrifice to save them from the world will be more spontaneous, and the pleading of faith more confident and triumphant. And it will be found now what richest blessings for parents and their family open out in the words, ` I am surety for the child.’

Blessed Father, most earnestly do we beseech You to open the eyes of the parents of Your Church to see and know their holy and most blessed calling. May they understand and realize that You say to them at the birth of each little one entrusted to their care, At your hands will I require it. May they understand and realize, too, that with each little one they brought and gave to You in baptism, they accepted the solemn charge, and gave the answer, `Of my hand You will require him; I am surety for the child.’

O God, show us what the dangers are that surround our children, and how impotent we are. Give us the true surety spirit, the willingness to sacrifice all rather than be unfaithful to our charge. As we see the power of sin and of the world threatening them, may we plead as for our own life, yea, with the offer of our life, that the children be now saved from sin and Satan. As Your eye sees us day by day with our children, may this be the one desire, of our parental love. You find, that they may be wholly Yours. Be this our one aim in prayer, and education, and intercourse.

And do, O blessed Lord Jesus, King, Surety, Brother, on the throne, reveal Yourself as our Helper and our Joy.

O Lord Jesus, teach us and the parents of Your Church that, as You are our Surety, we are the surety of our family. O You who are the faithful Surety, make us faithful too. Amen.