Hannah was an extraordinary woman. She lived during the time of the judges—a horrible, lawless period in Israel’s history. Hannah ardently wanted a son so she could dedicate him to God. She took on God’s deep desire for family. When God answered her prayer by giving her Samuel, she ended up raising one of the greatest prophets in the Bible!
This righteous woman wanted to spread God’s truth and revelation to her child. She gave Samuel a marvelous God-centered education.
Samuel was impressive even as a youth. His mind was unusually mature. Because of his upbringing, he was ready for God to use him. God called him to special service around age 13. When he matured, Samuel did something extraordinary with that education. He took the mind-set and the education he received from his mother and expanded it. He founded colleges so he could share that education with others. He spread the godly education his mother had given him to an entire school; and then another school; and then another.
“[P]erhaps Samuel’s greatest claim to honor and the most permanent of his life’s achievements were the schools of the prophets which he founded, and from which, in the work of the Hebrew prophets, there issued the supreme creations of Israel’s religious genius” (Soncino Commentary; emphasis added throughout). Samuel’s colleges changed the course of the nation.
Samuel laid a pattern of institutionalized godly education. Later on, Elijah followed that pattern. He
established a school, and another school, and another. The students at Elijah’s colleges received a God Family education. They were called sons of the prophets (2 Kings 2); Elisha saw Elijah as his spiritual father. This education was loaded with the God Family vision. It prepared people for the God Family.
Samuel’s educational blueprint formed the foundation for education in the New Testament. Christ trained apostles, and then they went out and taught others, and they taught those men to teach other men as well. Paul called Timothy “my son” (2 Timothy 2:1). His relationship with Timothy was the same as Elijah’s with Elisha. Paul told him to take that truth and spread it to others, who could themselves go on to teach others (verse 2). Paul thought like a father, just like God the Father does. He wanted spiritual children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!
In modern times, Herbert W. Armstrong used that same pattern to found three campuses of Ambassador College. Today that same education exists in Oklahoma and in England at Herbert W. Armstrong College.
When you trace these institutions back to their source, what do you find? A woman teaching her son. In The Former Prophets, Gerald Flurry dedicated a chapter to “Hannah: The Origin of Samuel’s Colleges.” He showed that this impressive educational system all started with the right kind of child rearing. Hannah’s determination to turn Samuel to God started an educational system that still continues today!
At the heart of God’s educational system is the desire to teach, nurtured within a family.
A Family-Centered Education
A godly education builds family vision in us. It helps us understand God’s wonderful family government, and it points us to God the Father.
“Herbert W. Armstrong also came from a strong family and had a strong marriage,” Mr. Flurry wrote in The Former Prophets. “He taught us that the foundation of a college is Malachi 4:5-6. He taught that if you don’t turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children, you’re not going to raise up anything.” Notice his conclusion: “There are various ways we can learn that, but the main way is through physical families.”
Family is the heart of a godly education.
That is the foundation of God’s college today. We are still building on the pattern laid by Samuel the prophet. Herbert W. Armstrong College provides students with an education in family. It is at the heart of everything we do. You see it in the curriculum; in the many families with parents, children and even grandparents here on campus; in the relationships between students and faculty. This is a God-Family education!
Every instructor here should have the same desire for every student that Hannah had for Samuel: to dedicate these young people to God. This is our purpose.
But it doesn’t stop there: We are trying to build that same mind-set in these students! We want them to follow the pattern Hannah implanted in Samuel’s mind, so they can take this education and spread it. Students graduate and then go on to strengthen field congregations and strengthen the Work—they strengthen the Family of God. That is what this family education is really aimed at.
This all started with one relationship between a mother and her son! This woman yearned for family and worked to educate her son and dedicate him to God. In doing so, she prepared him to educate others as well. That established a pattern. Wherever that pattern is followed, it can be reproduced over and over! It is self-perpetuating.
Samuel replicated and expanded that pattern by institutionalizing it in the colleges. He built family-oriented education aimed at dedicating people to God and orienting them to become teachers—but on a much bigger scale. Then it was repeated by Elijah, Elisha, Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Flurry.
It’s important to note: The whole system hinges on education. The pattern is self-replicating as long as the ones in the higher position have a mind to teach—they are committed to the education and improvement of the children, or the students. This is the essential element. If it is missing, the system breaks down. If it is present, the system self-replicates infinitely! Those students grow into the responsibility of teaching, so the whole system can spread, and grow, and multiply, and reproduce.
We follow the same pattern in God’s Church today, which itself is a “teacher’s college.” God is building this mind-set in all of us—the same mind-set Hannah had: Build the family; train up the next generation; teach them to become teachers—so we can spread this family truth! That is what this whole Work is about. And this is the mind-set God is building within us for eternity!
This is a deep spiritual concept, but it is also extremely simple. Just look at a parent’s desire to rear his or her child, and you glimpse a tremendous spiritual vision. If you just think about godly child rearing, you get a little picture of God’s whole master plan.
This is true about so many things with God. He has designed parts of His creation to reinforce parts of His plan. For example, the process of conception, fetal development and birth point us to our spiritual begettal by God’s Spirit, our development in the Church, and our birth into God’s eternal Family. The holy days typify the process of God redeeming and converting human beings, and then they project us out to new Jerusalem, the universe and eternity! The Day of Atonement itself portrays a microcosm of the entire holy day plan—starting with Christ the Passover Lamb being killed and moving forward all the way to when Satan is banished at the beginning of the Millennium. The picture is the same whether you look at the big picture or at the little details.
Even God’s physical creation contains many extraordinary examples of self-similarity that illuminate this wonderful spiritual truth. Something that is self-similar is “the same from near
as from far.” Whether you look at it from a distance or zoom in to study the details, you see the same pattern over and over again. This type of study is a relatively new field called fractal geometry. Study the pictures on the next pages for some examples in God’s creation.
You see self-similarity in God’s government and godly education. When you look at the close-up view, you see a pattern that God intends to repeat on a massive scale!
Our challenge as individual Christians is to make our little part of the whole follow that pattern—so it looks exactly like the big picture.
Every family is a type of the God Family—if we follow the pattern. Every marriage is a picture of Christ’s marriage to the Church—if we follow the pattern. Every interaction we have with our children is a type of our job as Christ’s Bride—if we follow the pattern!
God wants us to get a clear picture of that overarching spiritual reality, and then make our little type of it look exactly like that bigger picture.
The rearing and education of young people is a microcosm of the entire family plan—of God’s master plan! Hannah’s desire for children is a type of what God is building in His Church. We all need to be building that spectacular yearning to have a large family, because that is going to be our job forever!
The beautiful thing is, because of that structure and organization, it can grow endlessly!
A little further back in history is another example of this same pattern at work.
In the middle of a world in rebellion against God, God called one man. He wanted to found His physical and spiritual nation through Abraham. He purposed to multiply his descendants and to bless them exceedingly.
What impressed God so much about Abraham? Abraham was obedient and faithful. He was also extremely family-oriented. He had a strong desire for a large family, just like God does (e.g. Genesis 15:2-3). But what attribute did God emphasize the most?
“For I know him,” God said of Abraham, “that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19). Surely this was one of the uppermost qualities that excited God about this man! Because Abraham was diligent to teach those in his household, God could use him to father entire nations!
It was because Hannah was so diligent to teach her son that God was able to use her to rear the founder of God’s educational system!
Remember God’s purpose for ancient Israel—to become a kingdom of priests that would lead the whole world to Him! (Exodus 19:5-6). That is God’s purpose for spiritual Israel today: We are here to teach the world. So it makes sense that God would start that nation—physically and spiritually—with a man who had a mind to teach his children what God taught him! Abraham had that vision that is at the heart of the whole plan!
Abraham didn’t just enjoy a great relationship with God as His friend (Isaiah 41:8). He wanted to share “the way of the Eternal” with everyone in his household. When God said this in Genesis 18:19, Abraham had only one son: Ishmael. But God said, I know he will command his children and his whole household. He will teach them the truth about this way of life, and I know they’re going to get it! I know they will keep this way—I know they will do justice and judgment! God knew Abraham’s children—even those who hadn’t been born yet—would live right, just by watching the way Abraham dealt with his family!
The way we conduct our marriage matters! The way we rear our children matters. God wants them to keep this way, to do judgment and justice. And if we command them God’s way, they will!
There is probably no better training for what we will be doing for eternity. God wants to give us the responsibility of looking after and educating His children forever as the Bride of Christ. If we make educating our children a priority like Abraham did, how much weight will that have with God as He determines our future—and our children’s future?
This is what we are here for! This is what Pentecost is all about. We are not here just to acquire knowledge about God and His ways—but to teach it. This is a fundamental trait God needs in His people: the desire to dispense the God-Family education!
How to Survive as a Nation
Remember this crucial point: If it lacks education, the system breaks down.
In the final years of his life, Mr. Armstrong felt highly motivated to fulfill the Malachi 4:5-6 commission, turning the parent’s heart to the children and the children’s to their parents.
In the Good News magazine of September 1979, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Brethren, God’s Church is not showing even half the growth it should have from the oncoming generation of our members. This shows we have neglected the teaching of our children!” Mr. Armstrong recognized this weakness in the Church more than six years before he died. The near-universal falling away in the Church after his death further betrayed the widespread failure among parents to fulfill this responsibility toward their children and toward God!
We must learn from this failure.
Moses had a similar experience. At the end of his life, when he was giving his final instructions to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, Moses repeatedly emphasized parents’ responsibility to pass their spiritual wisdom down to their children and grandchildren. Study Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:4-7; 11:18-21. Moses commanded parents to reinforce the lessons of the Bible throughout the day, both at home and away, each night before bedtime and again each morning. He expected parents and children to be interacting often, and for the Bible to be a regular topic of discussion.
Moses made sure to be detailed in this instruction, emphasizing diligence and repetition, because he knew our natural tendency as parents to allow this duty to slip.
And notice what this is all for: “That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21). Obedience to this command welds individual families into a single nation under God.
Moses had witnessed a lot of failure among Israel’s families. He showed that the right kind of child rearing and family instruction would ensure national stability and guarantee Israel’s future as a godly nation! If parents in Israel had diligently followed the command to teach their children, the nation never would have departed from God’s way!
The same is true of God’s Church today. Our success hinges on our commitment to teach our children. Our role as God’s firstfruits is to take the instruction we receive from God and spread it so the family can expand. Family is the heart of a godly education.
This pattern is infinitely self-replicating—as long as those in the higher position have a mind to teach. God has called us to become teachers. This is the essential element to the success of the system. As long as each individual part—each minister, each congregation, each family—is committed to following the pattern, then the increase of God’s government and peace will have no end (Isaiah 9:6-7). It will be an infinitely expanding self-similar pattern, growing for eternity—forever spreading the peace and beauty of God’s way of life!