Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Exodus 20:12 Honor Your Father and Your Mother

"Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long
in the land the LORD your God is giving you."

Exodus 20:12 (NIV)

In speaking of all of the commandments which the LORD gave to Israel, Deuteronomy 6:1-2 says this:

"These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God
directed me to teach you to observe
in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 
so that you, your children and their children after them 
may fear the LORD your God as long as you live
by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you,
and so that you may enjoy long life."

Deuteronomy 6:1-2 (NIV)

One purpose of giving such laws was an act of love, so that the Israelites might fear the LORD and enjoy a long life in the land which God was giving them.  In the New Testament, another purpose mentioned for the law in the book of Galatians is this:

"...if a law had been given that could impart life,
then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin,
so that what was promised,
being given through faith in Jesus Christ,
might be given to those who believe.

Before this faith came,
we were held prisoners by the law,
locked up until faith should be revealed.
So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ
that we might be justified by faith."

Galatians 3:21-24 (NIV)

In other words, the law showed us that we are sinful, for we find that no matter how hard we try, we cannot keep it perfectly.  The law leads us to Christ, the Savior, by making us realize our need for such a savior.  By faith in Jesus' death on the cross for our sins, we can find forgiveness for our sins and His perfect righteousness is registered in our account.  Because our sins (former and future) are paid for by Christ's death, we are no longer separated from God by our sins, and His Spirit lives in us and helps us to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.

[However, I am getting ahead of the story.  Sometimes I have to, so that we can catch a glimpse of how all this fits together.  All these things will be covered in greater detail as they come up in the Scriptures.]

God commands us to honor our father and our mother.  This is, as Paul notes in Ephesians 6:2, "...the first commandment with a promise -- that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."  [Peter is quoting from Deuteronomy 5:16 here.]

I think we can readily understand that a child who obeys his or her parents is a basic building block for a stable society.  If a child will not submit to parental authority, how do we think he or she will respond to other authorities?  Parents who allow their little ones to rule the home should not be surprised when they grow up to be people who refuse to submit to any other authorities.  They never learned how to do so.  So it is a real responsibility for us to learn how to lovingly yet firmly discipline our children.  It is not easy, but we are doing something which sets them on a course in life which is for their own good.

What kind of benefits await those who do obey their parents?  Well, for one thing, this verse speaks of long life as a benefit.  Perhaps this is because parents actually do know some things which can lead to a long, happy life.  Remember "eat your vegetables"?  Nutritionists are falling over themselves these days clamoring for us to eat our vegetables because of their many benefits, but mom and dad knew it all along.  They also said things like "Get plenty of sleep", "stay away from troublemakers", and taught us that we can't just haul off and whack those who annoy us.  They taught us many other things as well:  how to keep ourselves (and our living spaces) clean, how to save, how to keep our promises, how to eat in moderation, how to work, how to love.  These are only a tiny bit of the many things which they imparted to us.  What if we said "NO!" to all of that?

Also in the original verse above (Exodus 20:12) is the promise that the Israelites would live long in the land which God had given them.  Obedient children help form that stable society we were speaking of earlier.  It was all part of those instructions which God was giving them so that they would be well and happy and pleasing to Him.

Other Scriptures which speak of honoring parents are as follows:

Ephesians 3:20 "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the LORD."  (Note: "in everything" means "in everything which is not sinful", of course.  I do not believe the LORD wants us to obey a parent who orders us to participate in something sinful.  See Acts 5:29 to see how Paul answers authorities which have ordered him not to teach about Jesus.  Paul is calm and respectful of their position, yet says "We must obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:29 NIV)
2 Timothy 3:1-5 includes "disobedient to their parents" in a list of sinful behaviors which describe how unbelievers will be "...in the last days".

Romans 1:28-32 gives another such list of even more blatantly sinful behavior. [The 2 Timothy 3:1-5 list was largely interior attitudes which might not readily show].  "They disobey their parents" was listed right along with things like "depravity", "murder", "heartless", "ruthless","God-haters", etc.

OK, I think we get the picture.  Once again, God (and our parents) know what they are talking about:  Honoring Dad and Mom really is another thing which God has commanded us for our own good.
PS:  Just a word about aging parents:  The honor and respect for them is never supposed to end.  Their position of authority over us changes when we grow to adulthood or marry, but we are always to treat them in a loving, respectful way.  Even if they have not always treated us perfectly.  Even if they are getting senile.  Forgiveness, patience and understanding are qualities which we can all stand to develop more fully in our lives.

"Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old."

Proverbs 23:22 (NIV)   

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