The Family Alter - 3
Now we come to our second word on this matter and we shall discuss, for a while, what we may call, the blessings and benefits of this practice. Again we have to say that those blessings and benefits are numberless. But we shall mention just a few. It hardly needs to be said that whenever Christ is set in His rightful place as Lord, blessings and benefits abound. Wherever we have His government, we shall have what Isaiah calls the "increase" of that government (lsa.9: 7). Some typical examples of that "increase" are later described by the prophet when he says: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing"(lsa.35: 5,6).
The hymn -writer puts the same truth in other words when he declares:
"Blessings abound where'er He reigns:
The pris'ner leaps to lose his chains,
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blest".
Now if this is true in a general sense, and it is, it will also be true in a particular sense, including this matter of instituting the "Family Altar" in the home. Such a move is a very practical honoring of the Lord as Lord and a granting to Him of the first and foremost place in the daily schedule of the family. It is, in actual essence, a veritable. Enthroning, on that territory, of this Glorious King of kings. We can reasonably expect, therefore, that "Millennial blessings", in their deep and spiritual form, will begin to appear within that home! Throughout the family, Isaiah's wonderful prophecy, for instance, will begin to have its blest fulfilment. New "vision" will be granted; new "hearing" experienced; a new "walking" and "leaping" will be made possible, (how great the need for this!), and a NEW SONG will be heard! Surely that should be enough to provoke some action in this matter! The very enthroning of the Lord in this particular respect is sure to bring its train of blessing. What a heartening prospect for the Christian parent!
And, of course, that well -worn Bible, handled by the parent every morning in the presence of the children, is sure to bring its own deep blessing to the home. God told Joshua that if he would meditate on the Scripture "day and night" he would make his way prosperous and he would have "good success" (Josh.1: 8). Many are the families who have proved the truth of that sure promise, and have done so through the daily reading of the Word together. In the course of that homely exercise, the Word of God itself has "Converted the soul; made wise the simple, rejoiced the heart, and enlightened the eyes" (See Psa. 19:7,8). In other matters, too, there has been practical "success"; all faithfully granted by the Lord in keeping with His promise.
Let us mention, now, some of the particular and personal blessings, which usually attend this practice, and starting, perhaps, with the one who is privileged to be the head of such a house, and who has the honor and responsibility of presiding at these prayers. That such an one will receive a special blessing there can be no doubt. It is a responsibility, of course, and means an extra load, but God is no man's debtor, and He sees to it that the regular homely ministry brings its own reward.
There is, of course, the priceless joy of seeing the family developing and rejoicing under the gracious smile of God, and that, itself, is wonderful. But there are, as well, particular "side blessings" which such an one will surely know.
Perhaps, for instance, this father of the family has been very recently converted, and he could hardly find the courage to utter an exhortation, or even a simple prayer, in the larger company of the local church. Much as he would like to do so, the words will not come! But here, in his own familiar home, it is very different! Surrounded by the trusting love of little children, and by the humble helpfulness of an understanding wife, he can begin immediately to exercise a precious ministry, which, incidentally, will be all the better for its spontaneity and brevity. During those few minutes together in the morning he can become accustomed to "presiding at the gathering" and to hearing his own voice as he reads from the Scriptures in the presence of other listeners. Sometimes he will feel the urge to add a little comment; some simple thought that has been quickened of the Spirit to his own heart as he has read the allotted portion. These may be small beginnings, but who knows where such a ministry may end? Very quickly it
can spread to the larger gatherings of the local church, and possibly far beyond! This, surely, is a benefit, and quite a considerable one, which very frequently attends this exercise. All unconsciously, it has been the ideal "training ground" for wider ministry!
Another important matter suggests itself just here, and it may be well to mention it. If there are servants in the house, these also can usually be gathered from their several tasks, and all in the home can be encouraged to "bow the knee" together before the Great Lord Christ. This very act of kneeling down with those who serve us, often helps to maintain a happy working atmosphere and to offset proud and haughty attitudes which frequently spoil our more affluent and favored families, particularly amongst the children. To be sure, our appointed positions in life may be different, but, meeting thus together before our Maker, we are made to realize again, that, in the ultimate things that really matter, we are all on common ground. All are sinners, and only the grace of God can save us (Eph.2:8). Impressions of that kind will bring, in time, their untold benefits, particularly to the children, and will leave their mark, in years to come, in richer Christian character.
And what a wonderful opportunity, incidentally, for sowing the seeds of the Gospel into the hearts of the servants! In earlier life they may have had no Christian background whatsoever, and would never feel free to attend the more public Christian meetings. But here, at "Family Prayers", they can listen every day to a few verses from the Word of God, and, when they hear the prayers, they can see and feel the blessedness of a genuine Christian life lived in fellowship with our Unseen Heavenly Friend! Little by little the Word will do its saving work, and those who serve us daily can thus be brought to Christ (See 1 Pet.1: 23; Jas.1: 18).
Often a visitor in the home, taking part in the regular daily prayers, also receives a blessing; something, may be, which he or she would never get in any larger gathering. And possibly such an one will be encouraged, by what has been seen and tasted, to incorporate the happy practice into his or her own home. And so, praise God, the blessing spreads!
It has been our own frequent experience that an unconverted tradesman or business acquaintance, "dropping by" at that particular time, has been invited to "sit in", for a moment, on the little family gathering, (it is always short; ten minutes at the most) and has been noticeably touched by the Holy Spirit through the verses read, or through the very sight of a Christian family kneeling down in prayer together and blessedly united in this act of worship. All these are blessings, which can be known through the daily operation of the "Family Altar".
Before we close this part of our message there is another solemn matter, which we feel, urged to touch upon. It relates again to the relationship that exists between the individual Christian Home and the local church, and has to do, particularly, with the principle of eldership in that local church. God's Word tells us that an elder must be: "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity", and then is added the significant parenthesis: "(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (1Tim. 3:4,5). Another translator renders it: "He must have proper authority in his own household, and be able to control and command the respect of .his children" (J.B. Phillips).
This, of course, is a tremendous matter, the far- reaching significance of which can hardly be imagined. Those who covet the welfare of the local churches, and of the testimony of Jesus as a whole, should ponder much this inspired directive regarding elders, and they should lay to heart this clear insistence on a right domestic background for all who would hold this office. And, of course, the whole matter is very definitely related to what we are now studying. We may say that this simple! practice of "Family Prayers", with all that inevitably accompanies it, provides a most desirable foundation in the developing and qualifying of one who is later destined to become a shepherd of God's Flock! The very responsibility often does very much towards the setting of our homes In order, and towards the fitting of us, in the eyes of God, for further responsibilities which yet may come to us. Those who have ears to hear
The benefits and blessings of this simple practice are indeed innumerable". We have not even mentioned the benefits, which will accrue in the sacred area of the relationships between the husband and his wife. Being Christians, they will long to grow up together into Him, and to know a deepening oneness with each other in every realm. Here again the Family Altar will serve its gracious purpose. It will provide a daily occasion for the husband and wife to take their place together as the appointed leaders in the home and as the eager helpers of each other in the training of the children.
We may add that, even amongst Christians, in these unnatural days of rush and drive, the holy harmony of husband and wife comes under constant challenge, for the Devil certainly hates this living symbol of the oneness of Christ and His Church (Eph.5: 31 -32). In view of this, apart from all else, there is growing need for this daily exercise and fellowship together. Those few minutes every morning, when parents are found fulfilling their mutual ministry to their family, will aid them much in their own relationships and in their deepening life together in the Lord. Many will testify to this.