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The King's Dedication: Simeon and Anna Welcome ChristA Very Special Baby Dedication

Leslie Basham: Surrendering your will to God’s is one of the best gifts you could give to your children. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’re holding yourself back from the Lord, wanting to run and control your own life, how hypocritical is it to present your children to the Lord and say, “I want You to control this child; I want You to rule over this child’s life”?

And not only when the child is an infant, but when the child is older, if you’re trying to run your own life, resisting the will of God, how can it bother you when your children say, “I want to run my own life”? You say, “No, you need to obey God,” and they’re saying, “Show us. What does that look like?”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Monday, December 10.

When they want to read the Christmas story, a lot of people flip to Luke 2, and they usually stop after the shepherds visited Jesus. But the rest of the chapter provides a fascinating look at Jesus’ dedication at the temple, a perfect study for this time of year.

Nancy will explain why this story is so important, continuing in a series called The King’s Dedication.

Nancy: I don’t know if they do this at the church that you are a part of, but at the church I attend, they every so often have a baby dedication. They’ll have the parents who’ve had infants born to them during the last few months bring up their babies and hold them.

The parents will dedicate the children to the Lord, and the congregation will express some sense of responsibility for the influence on these families. It’s always a sweet time. I want to talk today about a very special baby dedication that took place around the time of the first Christmas.

We read about it in Luke chapter 2, starting in verse 22. We’re going to look at Jesus’ baby dedication and then make some practical applications for parents who are believers who want to dedicate their children to the Lord.

Let me first read Luke 2, verses 22-23: “When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they [Mary and Joseph] brought him [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’).”

Now, according to the Jewish law, when a woman had her first-born male child—her firstborn son—when he was 40 days old, she would go to the temple for her purification rite. We talked about that in the last session. She would also dedicate that firstborn son to the Lord. So here we see Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. This would have been Jesus’ first time to be in the temple.

In this scene, two rituals or two different rites take place—possibly three, as we’ll see in just a few moments. The first we looked at in the last session, and that was the purification of the mother—a ritual purification she would go through after childbirth.

And then we have in this passage today the presentation, or the dedication, of the infant to the Lord. This presentation or dedication of the baby was based on the Law that God gave to His people in the Old Testament right after they came out of their slavery in Egypt. You read about it in Exodus chapter 13.

They had just come out of Egypt, and before they even went through the Red Sea, God said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine” (verse 2).

So the firstborn of every womb in the Jewish community was to be consecrated to the Lord. That word “consecrated” means to be set apart, to be sanctified, for God’s purposes.

That’s what it means to dedicate a baby to the Lord: That child is consecrated to God. It was done in remembrance of the night God delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt. You remember that last night before the children of Israel came out of Egypt?They’d been slaves of Pharaoh for 400 years, and on that last night, God smote all the firstborn sons and animals of Egypt.

The angel of death went through Egypt and killed every firstborn son. The Egyptians had rebelled against the law of God, and God sent judgment in the form of death to all the firstborn.

But the same night that the angel of death smote all the Egyptian firstborn, the angel of death passed over and spared the firstborn sons and animals of the Israelites—not because they were any more holy or righteous or deserving of God’s mercy than the Egyptians, but because they had obeyed God and had put the blood of the lambs on the doorposts and the lintels of their homes.

The angel saw the blood and said, “I’ll pass over that home.” So the firstborn Israelite sons were spared. Therefore, when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God claimed a right to all those firstborn sons of Egypt.

God said all the firstborn sons and animals were His possession. They belonged to Him. Now, that led to another important ritual that took place with Jewish firstborn sons: not only the dedication to the Lord, but also what was known as their redemption. Parents were required not only to dedicate their children to God, but to redeem or buy back their firstborn sons by paying a redemption price.

To redeem something is to buy it back. The redemption price for every firstborn son was five shekels of silver. The five shekels was given to the priest, and that was part of the money that supported the work of the temple.

So as a firstborn male, Jesus was taken to the temple by Mary and Joseph, and He was consecrated, or presented, to the Lord. They went to present Him to the Lord. That was Mary and Joseph saying, “This child belongs to You. He is set apart for Your purposes.”

And though it’s not specifically mentioned in the Scripture, they undoubtedly would also have paid five shekels to the priest to redeem Mary’s son. Now, if that took place, they paid five shekels to redeem the One who would one day become the Great High Priest and Redeemer of the world.

Yu see here again a picture of Christ, who came to fulfill the Law. In every point, He fulfilled that which the Law pictured. He would redeem us, according to 1Peter 1, not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but with His own precious blood (verses 18-19, paraphrased).

Now, as I’ve meditated on this passage, I want to take just a little rabbit trail. It’s not the primary point of the passage, but I think it’s an important application for believing parents.

I want to talk about this thing of parents dedicating their children to the Lord. First of all, presenting or dedicating your children to God implies the willingness to first present yourself to the Lord.

It’s significant to me that Mary presented her child to the Lord at the same time that she herself went to the temple for her purification rite that we talked about in the last session. She went through her own purification before the Lord so that she could consecrate and present her child to the Lord.

Another verse in Scripture that talks about presenting to the Lord came to mind. Do you remember where that is? Romans chapter 12, verse 1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

We’re told to present ourselves to the Lord. As a parent, you want to raise your children up in the community of faith and to be a God-fearing, Christ-loving servant of the Lord. You want your children to come to know the Lord, so when you dedicate your children to the Lord, you’re presenting them to God for all of this to take place. But how can parents think of presenting their children to the Lord if they haven’t first presented themselves to the Lord?

If you’re holding yourself back from the Lord, wanting to run and control your own life, how hypocritical is it to present your children to the Lord and say, “I want You to control this child; I want You to rule over this child’s life”?

And not only when the child is an infant, but when the child is older, if you’re trying to run your own life, resisting the will of God, how can it bother you when your children say, “I want to run my own life”? You say, “No, you need to obey God,” and they’re saying, “Show us. What does that look like?”

The importance of parents themselves being consecrated and dedicated to the Lord—if you’ve never done that consciously, just say, “Lord, I am Yours. I present myself to You. I am Your child. I belong to You.”

Today would be a good time for you to do that. It’s never too late, as long as you have breath. God is still extending mercy to you for you to say, “Lord, today I present myself to You. I am Yours. I want You to run my life and be in control of my life.”

So presenting or dedicating your children to the Lord first implies the willingness to present yourself to the Lord. And then, dedicating your children to God—whether it’s in a formal service that takes place or in a less formal way—dedicating your children to the Lord is a recognition that conception and birth and life are all gifts from the Lord.

Your child is a gift from the Lord. Now, I think every parent of a newborn—certainly every mother of a newborn—recognizes as she holds that newborn baby, “This is an incredible gift.”

But if you stop to recognize that your child is a gift from God—not only when that child is six days old and hasn’t yet done anything to offend you, but when the child is 16 years old and is getting on your nerves—do you remind yourself, “This child is a gift from God?”

Psalm 127 tells us, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (verse 3). In Isaiah chapter 8, there’s that one little phrase where the prophet Isaiah says, “I and the children whom the LORD has given me” (verse 18).

What a way to live for a parent, to always be saying, “Lord, here am I and the children that You have given me. We are all dedicated to You, consecrated to You, to be used for Your purposes.”

To dedicate your children to God is to recognize that your children are a gift from God. Now, I want you right now—those of you who are mothers—to think of your children, from the littlest ones to the oldest ones. Some of you are grandmothers, maybe great-grandmothers, but think of the children God has given you.

In different seasons of life, for better or for worse, they have strengths and weaknesses. By the way, they got most of those from their parents—and you say, “Yes they got them from their dad.” But think of those children. Think of each name, each child. Picture that child in your mind and heart.

Say, “Yes, Lord, that child is a gift from You.” Now, that child may not be acting like a well-wrapped gift at the moment. That child may be causing you fits. That child may be grieving your heart, but that child is a gift from the Lord.

Dedicating that child to the Lord is a recognition of that. And then dedicating your children to the Lord is an acknowledgment that those children belong to God. It’s a sign of relinquishing ownership. This child is not mine. This child is just on loan to me to care for on behalf of the Lord. This child belongs to God.

Now, as you acknowledge that that child belongs to God, you accept your responsibility on behalf of God to bring that child up in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.

You’re accepting your responsibility under God to care for that child, to steward that child who is on loan to your from God. So when you dedicate the baby to the Lord, you’re acknowledging that this child belongs to God, but you’re also accepting your responsibility as a parent to nurture that child according to the Word of God.

And then, when you dedicate that child to God, you are presenting, releasing that child to God for His service and for God’s purposes. You’re opening your hands.You’re saying, “This child is not mine to cling to or to hold on to or to use for my purposes. This child is to be used for God’s purposes. God has a purpose for this child’s life on this earth, and I am releasing this child to that purpose, whatever it may be.”

Little did Mary know at the moment that she dedicated the infant Jesus to the Lord, how she would be required to open her hands and release that Son to God’s holy purposes, which would cause her great pain and suffering.

Sometimes God’s purposes for your child will make your heart sad. Sometimes there will be separation. You’d like to have all your children forever, right around you, like a little mother hen, right? But God calls your child to serve Him somewhere else. When you dedicate your child to God, you’re saying, “I release this child to God’s purpose for as long as he lives.”

It’s so important for parents, I think, to be intentional about releasing and dedicating their children to the Lord. Your children, as you dedicate them to God, become your greatest legacy.

They are the means of your life being a blessing to the world, long after you are gone. That is such a privilege, as a parent, to say, “Lord, I give this child to You to be used for Your purposes.”

Now, dedicating your children to God has some practical implications that extend far beyond that church service when the child is a few weeks or months old—implications that go with you and your child as long as you both live.

Let’s talk about some of those implications. First of all, if you’ve dedicated your child to God, that releases you from fear because your children belong to God. You can release them to His care.

I have a friend who, with her husband, for several years after they got married, prayed that God would bless them with a child. She couldn’t get pregnant, and she couldn’t get pregnant.

Finally, she conceived. God gave her a child. She had a difficult pregnancy, but the child was born just a few weeks ago—a son that God gave to them. And after the baby was born, they discovered that the child, at some point in the womb, had had a stroke.

The child spent the first two weeks of his life in intensive care. They’ve now taken the child home. The child looks and seems normal in every way, but the doctors have said, “We won’t know for six months to a year whether there has been damage, and if so, how great the damage has been.”

They say the damage could be severe, but the parents have this child at home now, not knowing what they have to face. This young woman said to her dad as they were taking the baby home from the hospital, “Dad, I know we may face difficulties in the future, but we have our son. He’s God’s gift, and God knows exactly what He has planned for him.”

She’s a woman who has all the natural emotions that a mom would have under these circumstances. I know she’s cried a lot, and she’s been tempted to have fears, but she’s counseling her heart that this child belongs to God.

God will do what is best for this child, so she does not have to live—as she waits these next months to find out what are the implications for all this—she doesn’t have to live in fear because the child belongs to God. She has released him to God’s care.

Now, another implication of dedicating your children to the Lord is that that places huge responsibility on your shoulders as a parent, because your children belong to God. Not only does it release you from fear because they belong to Him, but it makes you heavily responsible. You’re taking care of something that belongs to God.

You will give an account to God for the example of your life to your children, for your faithfulness in training your children, for anything you may have put in their life or their path that will cause them to stumble in their spiritual life.

God takes that seriously, we read in the Scripture. So the fact that you’ve dedicated your children to God means it’s a huge responsibility to parent them according to the ways of God.

And then, the fact that you’ve dedicated your children to God—and you let your children know this as they grow up—will give your children a huge sense of responsibility to recognize, “Mom and Dad aren’t the ultimate ones in my life. I belong to God.”

My parents dedicated me to the Lord when I was a little baby at the Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dr. Lee Roberson was the pastor at that time, and I have no recollection of this event. I was very, very little. But my parents told me about this as I was growing up.

By the way, I had the chance before Dr. Roberson went to be with the Lord—he was probably in his 90s when he went home to heaven—late in his life, I had the chance to go and meet him and thank him for his part in dedicating me to the Lord as a baby.

It has marked my life, throughout my life, to know that my parents presented and dedicated me to the Lord to be used for God’s purposes. And throughout the nearly 50 years of my life, I have had this sense of, “I belong to God. My life is set apart for His use.” That’s an important thing for your children to know.

And then the fact that your dedicate your children to God may mean that you come to a point where you have to completely release that child to the direct oversight and maybe even discipline of the Lord.

Your child may be in his teens or 20s or 30s or older, and you’re finding you still have to recognize the implications of having dedicated that child to God.

I have a friend who dedicated her daughter to the Lord when her daughter was just a little girl. Now the daughter’s a young adult, and the daughter is making some wrong choices. They’re very foolish and very dangerous.

This is a mother who has pleaded. She’s wept. She’s appealed. She’s prayed. She’s appealed to her child, but now she’s having to live out the implications of having dedicated that child to God years ago.

She and her husband have had to communicate to that daughter, “We are releasing you to God. You answer to Him.” Through tears, that mother told me on the phone this past week, “I’ve reminded God, ‘She is Your child. She’s Your responsibility. She’s not under my roof any longer. I’m not there physically. I can’t make her do what is right, but I trust the Lord.’” And she’s told her child, “We’re trusting and committing you to the Lord.”

This past week I came across, in my church bulletin, a letter that William Carey—he was a British missionary in India—wrote to his father in 1793. It shows the heartbeat of a son who recognizes that he belongs to the Lord, but also the implications that has for parents.

William Carey said, “To be devoted like a sacrifice to the holy uses is the great business of a Christian. I therefore consider myself devoted to the sole service of God.” He’s writing his dad and telling him this. He says, “Now I am appointed to go to Bengal in the East Indies—a missionary to the Hindus.”

These are the days before email and jet service where they could go back and forth. When you went to the mission field in those days, you may never have been seen the rest of your life by your family.

He says,

I hope, dear father, you may be enabled to surrender me up to the Lord for the most arduous, honorable, and important work that ever any of the sons of men were called to engage in. I have many sacrifices to make. I must part with my beloved family and a number of most affectionate friends, but I have set my hand to the plow.

Let me ask you, have you dedicated your children to the Lord? Not just, did you participate in a church service that was called a baby dedication, but from your heart, have you presented each of your children to the Lord?

Whatever that means—whatever the Lord wants for them, however He wants to use them, however God needs to deal with them to win and conquer their hearts—have you opened up your hands and lifted up those children to the Lord and said, “Lord, they’re Yours. I present them to You for Your purposes, for Your glory.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss with important words for every parent. She’ll be right back to pray.

Did you ever realize a Christmas message could lead you to consider dedicating your children to the Lord? Nancy has a way of pulling out practical implications from God’s Word and helping women see how Scripture intersects with life in the 21st century.

Thank you to all who give and allow us to bring you Nancy’s practical messages. If you’ve never donated to the ministry Revive Our Hearts, would you consider it this month?

Friends of the ministry know how important the end of the year is for Revive Our Hearts, and they’ve offered to match every gift up to $450,000. Would you help us meet and exceed this year-end goal? You’ll be hearing your donation at work throughout 2008 on Revive Our Hearts. If you’d like to find out how your donation will forward our mission, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com,or call 1-800-569-5959.

When the shepherds heard about Jesus, they immediately left the fields and found Him. But another character in the Bible who encountered Jesus had a much different experience. He knew the Messiah was coming but had to wait years before seeing Him. Hear about this biblical hero tomorrow. Now, Nancy’s back to pray with us.

Nancy: Lord, thank You for my parents, who presented me to the Lord—not just in a service there in Chattanooga, Tennessee, nearly 50 years ago, but for parents who did that from the heart.

Thank You for the privilege of being a child who’s been dedicated to You. And I pray for mothers who are listening today who need to walk through that heart exercise of saying, “Lord, I give my children up to You. I release them to You.”

I pray that there will be a huge sense of responsibility, and yet the release from fear as we acknowledge that these children belong to You. Lord, we pray that they would be consecrated for Your purposes and would bring You glory. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Topics: Holidays, Parenting

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