Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Learning from Children: Tenderness

There's an interesting word in the scriptures. I'm not a Greek or Hebrew student but the word in the NIV is "tender". It's a word in the scriptures that describes children. 5 out of 8 of the words for "tender" in Bible Gateway's Hebrew Lexicon have to do with tender grass or sprouting plants. Three have to do with deep love/compassion/mercy and there are other sides to some of those words.

Here's a sample. Read them in context if you like:
Deut 32:2 "tender plants (new grass)
Genesis 33:13 "My lord knows that the children are tender . . ."
Proverbs 4:3 "When I was a boy in my father's house, still tender..."
Ezekial 17:22, the very top of a cedar tree is tender enough to break off
and it will sprout planted in the ground .
Isaiah 53 "He grew up before him like a tender shoot . . ."

Is. 47:1 The Daughter of Babylon, on the other hand, wasn't tender anymore.
Isaiah 37: 26-28 talks about tender sprouts scorched before they grow up. (If I'm reading correctly the Assyrians were raging against God.)

Prov 15:1 The soft answer that turns away wrath is a "tender" answer.

Zechariah 7:9
"Thus has the LORD of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion (tenderness) each to his brother;" Hosea, Isaiah, and David in the Psalms speak of the tenderness of God.

As adults, God gives us a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone and we chose to stay soft or allow our hearts to grow cold and hard. Children are tender though they have to be trained. Sometimes we wonder how trainable they are, yet children can still be trained because they are "tender". I'd venture to say that maybe tenderness requires a certain childlikeness and visa versa.

A child being a tender shoot is one side of what I'm reading. It leaves me thinking about the tender love of developly challenged "children" or the capacity of little children to comfort and forgive. (Understanding that there are many facets of God) I'd not considered the moments when children are especially tender and compassionate as a glimpse of God's tender mercy.

There's lots of imagery here. If you think about children and young plants as you read back through these passages, you may find more to ponder here.

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