Revisiting the Ten Commandments: 11. Command Five: Focus on Families (2)
Deut 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Eph 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise– “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Recap: So honoring includes respecting, obeying, esteeming, caring for and protecting (these latter two apply more obviously in older age). Of course there are two sides to every relationship and we majored in the previous study on the role of the parents to create an environment that makes it easy to “Honor your father and mother,” at least as far as we are able! Perhaps we should remind ourselves of Paul’s instruction to fathers is not to be overbearing in disciplining them: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4) In passing, it is interesting to note that in the past forty years, say, to roles of fathers appear to have changed dramatically, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. For the worse, many fathers abandon their children through separation and divorce. For better, many fathers take a much greater part in looking after and caring for their children. Where the father stays with the family, the picture of the distant Victorian father who has little emotional attachment to their children, is rare.
In the Land: Now we have already indicated how important this simple command was for the God, by the references to the death penalty for cursing parents and for ongoing outright disobedience and rebellion resulting in a dissolute life (that’s what the Law indicates), but the second part of the command further shows this. In the original impartation of this command on Sinai, it simply says, “so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Ex 20:12) The apostle Paul spoke of this as “the first commandment with a promise.” The promise is of ongoing blessing in their new land IF they followed this law. We have already referred to the family as the basic building block of civilization and it most certainly was, in God’s eyes, as they settled in the Land.
The Promise of Blessing: In repeating this on the plains before they entered the Land, Moses slightly changed it to, “so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deut 5:16) which separates the original, “so that you may live long in the land,” into “so that you may live long” AND “that it may go well with you in the land.” Length of life indicates God’s blessing generally and reference to going well in the land also implies His ongoing blessing on their life and security in the Land. However you look at it, God promises blessing on those who hold to this command and, by inference, curses those who don’t.
The apostle Paul expands this double promise to apply to us who don’t live in that Land to, “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” When he says, “that it may go well with you,” he is referring to the daily lives we live, under God’s blessing, and of course the latter part of the verse refers to length of life.
Struggling to Obey: So back to the original command: “Honor your father and your mother.” The message is very clear: when parents together work to enable this to happen, and children seek to work it out, family division that comes from parental breakup or children breaking away from their parents is NOT God’s will. The fact that we live in a world where it has been happening in recent years in numbers counted by hundreds of thousands, means that you may be one of those casualties of the modern approach to life that conflicts with God’s design. But the command is still there.
The cry of the defense by the child has always been, “You don’t know my parents!” True, but psychologists tell us that when children reach their teenage years they start to sense their uniqueness, i.e. that they are distinct from their parents, and they seek to show their independence. How they do that is all important and it is also important that parents give them space for them to become themselves. They can re-bond with us when they have done this, but they do need to do this, and this is the danger zone when it comes to this command which still applies today! This just makes this period of life more difficult when it comes to applying this command. On our own it may be very difficult, but with God’s grace it is possible.
An Area of Heartache: Learning who you are as a young person, does not mean you have to demean or reject your parents, especially when you feel they have failed you. Yes, they were less than perfect but so will you be if or when you become a parent. Nevertheless, they were there for you (hopefully). If they weren’t then you have much greater need of the Lord’s grace to cope with that. Something I have observed over the years, is that the revelation of what the parent was going through sometimes helps. It doesn’t excuse them leaving you, if that happened, but it may help in understanding and, if and when they seek your forgiveness, it makes giving it easier. Don’t ever say, “I will never forgive them,” for you step out beyond the Lord’s love at that point. With God’s grace you can, as and when they come seeking it. Honor them by seeking God’s grace to be able to say, “I do” if and when they should come asking for forgiveness.
This is a minefield in the present age, so don’t let the strategy and works of the enemy ruin your life, or at the very least limit the blessing He wants to bring into your life. (Remember the promises of blessing we referred to earlier.) God’s grace is there to enable you to comply with this law, as difficult as that sometimes seems. Confronting your parent with grace and talking through the past with grace, may bring a healing to your relationship and his life (it is usually in respect of the diserting father) and healing within the whole wider community.
Recap: Let’s try and summarize the things we have considered in these two studies:
- Being a parent or a child is a life-long experience.
- God’s design is for a father and mother who stick together throughout life and who, when bringing children into the world, work to create an environment of love that is conducive to developing personality and character in the children to equip them to the rest of life ahead.
- Although the command appears to bear on children, there is, I have suggested, an equal requirement on parents to work to make obeying that command easy, by creating that environment of love.
- As parents we will always fall short but that should not stop us aiming for that goal with the enabling of God’s grace. Watching us doing that will help our children in their growth.
- The command came with promises of blessing from God, that if we do seek to obey this command we will receive His blessing, not only on length of life but also quality of life.
- If we have come to Christ after having suffered either marriage breakup, parental abuse or abandonment, the command does not lesson, but the need for grace will obviously be greater.
- Failure yesterday doesn’t mean hope is not possible for tomorrow. Although the Lord hates divorce, hates abuse (partner or child) and abandonment, and hates child-rebellion, that doesn’t mean He stops being a God of redemption and that can apply as much to these things as any other aspect of life. Yes, repentance and tears may be part of the package, followed by forgiveness, but His love and grace will always still be there for us.
Application: May I suggest we conclude this study in a different way. May I pray for you: “Lord we have been touching on areas of life which, today especially it potentially seems, are areas fraught with pain and anguish and hurt, and for that reason I ask for your love and grace to reach out right now to any who have been using this study who are feeling casualties in this particular war zone today. May they know your love and grace, your healing and reconciliation, your peace and comfort, and above all give them the grace to address any areas in their past experiences and present life that you have put your finger upon. May they be able to become bringers of light and peace as your grace flows in and through them, that their joy may be full and you be honored and glorified. Amen.”