Daily Archives: March 17, 2010

What Would Hillel Do?

Years ago, a friend gave me two tickets to a sporting event in town. Living in a family of four females, I knew interest among the most important women in my life in joining me would be pretty low. At first I thought of taking another male friend, but then my wife suggested, “Why don’t you take Josh?” (not his real name)

Josh was in the church youth group with my oldest daughter. Through a few conversations, I learned he grew up without a father. When I asked him to join me, he shrugged and said, “Okay.”

When we arrived at the event, I pelted him with questions. Usually he replied with a one-word answer or a grunt. After two hours, I was fairly exhausted…and I felt defeated because we were never able to engage in any kind of deep conversation.

Days later, my daughter told me, “Dad, Josh had an awesome time with you last weekend. He won’t stop talking about you!”

Wow, I thought to myself. I didn’t think our time together went that well.

Over the next few years, we attended an assortment of events together. From my vantage point, I never broke through the surface into the inner workings of Josh. But not long ago, Josh told my daughter that I’m the closest thing he ever had to a dad.

You and I can make a difference in a child’s life—even if we don’t think we’re making a difference.

In today’s reading, we’ll take a closer look at a child who was mentored—and who later became a mentor to a group of men who changed the world.

Over the next six days, I’m going to be taking a little breather from our daily conversation. While I’m away, we’ll have some excellent guest bloggers who will offer their perspective. I’m confident you’ll find their contributions more than worthwhile.


Numbers 26:1-51
Luke 2:36-52
Psalm 60:1-12
Proverbs 11:15


Numbers 26. After experiencing God’s judgment as a result of their rebellion and complaining, a census was needed to determine who was left. Israel was also preparing to enter the Promised Land, so they needed to know how many men were available to serve in the army. But most importantly, this signified a new start for the fledgling nation.

Verses 9 and 10 recount Korah’s rebellion. As we discussed about a week ago, this was an important moment in Israel’s history.

Luke 2:36-52. It might seem strange, today, for a 12 year old boy to travel apart from his parents, but the New Bible Commentary explains, “People traveled in large groups for companionship and security on the way, and it is not surprising that Mary and Joseph did not worry unduly about Jesus on the first day’s journey home.”

Already, we can see an intimate relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father. When asked about where he was while his parents searched for him, Jesus replied, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (verse 49)

The description of Jesus in verse 51 is nearly identical to the description of young Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:26.

Psalm 60. The New Bible Commentary provides an excellent summary of what’s happening:

“David was in trouble of his own making. According to 2 Samuel 8:3–7, he caught Hadadezer of Zobah with his back turned. Hadadezer was busy securing his frontier in the far north and David opportunistically invaded the south. But before he could savour his victory, news came that Edom had caught David with his back turned and invaded across the valley of the Dead Sea. With the king and the army miles away, it looked as if the infant kingdom of David would perish before it was well begun.”

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Up to this point in Luke’s portrayal of Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew their son was special. Mary had become mysteriously pregnant. Angels had appeared proclaiming Jesus’ birth. Magi presented their gifts to the new king. Even the shepherds walked from the fields to commemorate the occasion.

Yet they were astonished when they discovered that young Jesus had remained in Jerusalem to spend time with the older Jewish teachers. Undoubtedly, he spent time with rabbis Hillel and Gamaliel (who later mentored Saul of Tarsus)—both of whom are well-known in Jewish circles today.

Two thoughts come to mind as I meditate on this passage:

God has endowed children with the ability to understand deep spiritual truth. While Jesus was God, he was also equally human. If Jesus discussed deep spiritual truths with his teachers, so can children today. I confess that for many years as a pastor, I regarded children as participants in the church who should be seen but not heard. Children—and not just adults—are born with a deep spiritual hunger. Television, cell phones, FaceBook, extracurricular activities, and video games will never fill that spiritual void.

We raise spiritual, godly children by bringing them to the temple. Obviously this isn’t the only solution, but bringing children to church is an important part of it. What we do with children once they arrive is equally important. Children were created for so much more than silly songs and Bible-based games. They were created for an intimate relationship with God.

Here’s where come in. Perhaps you don’t have children—but you can be a Hillel or Gamaliel to someone else’s child. You don’t need to know all the answers (I sure don’t!), but by taking an interest in a child, loving that child, and openly living your relationship with Jesus, you can be a Hillel or Gamaliel.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What children has God brought into your life with whom you can be a mentor?
  3. How can you pray for those children?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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