August 30, 2021
Laity, First-Centenary UMC
Scenic South District
Nurtured and Supported
12 Then our sons in their youth
Psalm 144:12 (NIV)
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
DevotionWhen I was growing up on the farm, we planted a vegetable garden every year. We had squash and okra, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, plus corn from the field. I get hungry just thinking about it!
Of course we couldn't just put the seeds and seedlings in the ground and expect the plants to grow strong on their own. We had to nurture them: fertilizing, pulling up weeds, spraying for pests, and watering when the weather turned dry. Some of the plants needed to be physically supported as well. We put wire cages around the tomatoes and erected poles for the beans to climb on.
In Psalm 144, David alternately praises God for His many blessings, and prays that God will continue to protect His people from their enemies. Thus “our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants,” not sickly and scraggly but healthy and robust, both physically and spiritually.
David didn't neglect to mention the young women who, in that day, literally had “supporting roles” in the family. He compared them to “pillars carved to adorn a palace”; some translations say “a temple,” and the Hebrew word hekal can mean either one.
Atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, stands a small temple called the Erechtheion, or Erechtheum. The south porch of this temple is supported by six columns which are sculpted in the form of draped female figures known as caryatids. This image comes to my mind when I read today's scripture. Just as the caryatids are both beautiful and functional, so the young women who were blessed by God would not only be fair to look upon but would also provide strong and necessary support in their households.
In our western society today, the roles of men and women are not so strictly defined as they were then. But even in the early church, the task of spiritual leadership sometimes fell to the females in the family. This was the case with Timothy, the young protege of the Apostle Paul. Timothy's unnamed father was Greek (Acts 16:1), and it is implied that he was not a believer, since Paul mentions Timothy's grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice as being the ones who “nurtured and supported” young Timothy in his spiritual growth (2 Tim. 1:5).
So what can we as Christians do to ensure that we, and our young people, are properly “nurtured and supported”?
First we need to make sure our lives are deeply rooted in Christ (Col. 2:6-7); next we need to “fertilize” ourselves by feeding on the word of God (Matt. 4:4). We must act promptly to uproot the sin in our lives (Heb. 12:14-15), and not become entangled by the thorny concerns of this world (Luke 8:14). In periods of drought and doubt, we can quench our spiritual thirst by drinking deeply of the living water offered by Christ (John 4:10). Finally we must support and build up each other (1 Thess. 5:11).
But one thing is yet lacking: the blessing and guidance of God. A gardener may do everything right – planting, cultivating – but ultimately God causes the seed to germinate, God makes the plant grow and flourish.
Just as a well-tended garden yields abundant fruits (and vegetables!), so our lives, properly nurtured and supported, and blessed and guided by God, can produce abundant fruit of the Spirit.