The Sabbath Commandment that we talked about last time—many times we think of it as being a Commandment that is concerned with man’s relationship with God. But I think it’s just as much concerned with God’s relationship to man. The Sabbath was the day when the people were to put down their plowshares and pruning hooks and come together to worship God. And while they were worshipping God, He was at the same time dwelling among the people, in the cloud that covered the Ark of the Covenant. So Sabbath worship was to be a day where the people of Israel would be reminded of the covenant God made with them and their forefathers. In fact, when Moses is preaching these commandments to the people in Deuteronomy 5, he explains that the Sabbath was set aside as a reminder of how God acted on their behalf when He brought them out of Egypt. Deuteronomy 5:15—“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” So the Sabbath was for the people to remember the mighty acts of God not only in Creation but also when He brought them out from under the yoke of Pharaoh.
Now we are on to the 5th Commandment, and the one which is probably broken by almost every single person before they reach the age of 5. If one were to go their entire life, not breaking any of the other 9, they would almost definitely be guilty of this one. And if we remember that the Ten Commandments were not given to show us how good we can be, but were given to show us how wicked we really are, we would see that this commandment more then even any of the others really shows us what kind of spirit we are born with—that we have to be reminded to honor those who gave us life. Exodus 20:12—“Honor your father and your mother.” In Ephesians 6:2, the apostle Paul calls this the first commandment with a promise. What is that promise? “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” How many of us never, ever, ever disobeyed their parents? Yeah, right! Children are born to disobey their parents. They don’t have to be taught how to say “No!” The fact that we need this commandment should be enough to show us that we are sinful people.
A child must learn how to respect their parents, and that teaching rests in the hands of the parents. That’s not just my opinion, that’s the truth—a truth we find in Scripture. Proverbs 29:15—The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 22:15—Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. In other words, children don’t need to be taught how to be disobedient. It’s bound up in their heart; it’s part of their DNA; it’s in their nature to disobey. And they have to have it corrected out of them. A fellow by the name of Gustav Oehler, a German theologian, sums up the reason for this commandment:
“In this demand for reverence to parents, the fifth commandment lays the foundation for the sanctification of the whole social life, as it teaches us to acknowledge [that there is] a divine authority in [our whole social life].”It’s simple—if a child does not learn to respect his/her parents early, then what happens is when they get older, they do not learn to respect any kind of authority. If a parent does not teach their child respect, that child is likely to get into all kinds of trouble as they get older. BUT—if that child IS taught to respect not only their parents but all their elders, then they will be much more likely to stay out of trouble and be a productive member of society. If you read the Book of Proverbs, you will find that it is filled with probably more verses that talk about children, and how to raise them, and the joys of obedient children and the sorrows caused by rebellious children than nearly any other book in the Bible.
Proverbs 10:1—A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.
Proverbs 15:20—A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother.
Proverbs 17:25—A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him.
Proverbs 28:7—Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
But before we talk about how children are to honor their elders, we’re gonna talk to the parents first. If you look around today, you see many parents giving in to everything their child wants, not teaching them that they may have to wait for something, or that they may not get it at all, because they don’t want their child’s feelings to get hurt. They buy new cars for their kids when they turn 16. And that’s why we have so many kids growing up that have no respect for anything or anybody, and who think that all they have to do is ask for something and they are supposed to automatically get it handed to them. So they don’t learn how to obey. And the parents wonder why!
Proverbs 19:18—Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.
Proverbs 22:6—Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 23:13—Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
Proverbs 29:17—Correct your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your soul.
Proverbs 13:24—He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Let me give you an example of that one: when I was about 5 or 6 years old, I called my sister a bad word. She went and told dad, who…um…disciplined me promptly. He called me into the room and laid his hand on my backside. Needless to say it was a looooong time before he heard another bad word come out of my mouth.
But while we need to be firm with discipline, we must remember a few things. First, it must be done for the right reason. The main reason for disciplining our children should be so that they learn right from wrong. It should never be done because they're making you “look bad” in front of your friends or because they're “getting on your nerves”. They're children—they're supposed to “get on your nerves”. So when a parent punishes a child for that reason, they are going to find themselves fighting a losing battle because (1) that child is always going to do something to “get on their nerves”, and (2) they're not going to be guiding their children properly.
However, discipline does not necessarily mean punishment. To ‘discipline’ means, “To instruct or educate; to inform the mind; to prepare by instructing in correct principles and habits…to instruct and govern; to teach rules and practice…to correct; to chastise; to punish.” Punishment is simply one form of discipline—but it is not the only form. And if we are to discipline our children as a way to guide them and instruct them, we must do so with gentleness when appropriate, but also with the “rod of correction” when necessary. Listen to Proverbs 13:24—He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly. Promptly. Not “Wait until we get home and you're gonna get it.” We discipline—instruct, correct, punish if need be—the child right then and there. Not out of anger, not because we think they're a “nuisance”. But so they will know how to act in the future.
But because so many parents are abandoning their responsibility to discipline their children, we live in a time that the apostle Paul talked about in 2nd Timothy 3:1-2—But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy &c. And by neglecting their responsibility, parents are setting their children up for failure in life, or for prison or, most importantly, by not allowing Christ into their life, they are preparing them for an eternity in Hell. Children need to be taught to respect their parents primarily because left to themselves, the only thing they will want is their own way every time, and getting what they want in whatever way they can.
King Solomon knew this when he wrote the Proverbs. Proverbs 1:10-19--10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; 12 let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; 13 we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; 14 cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse”—15 My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; 16 for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. 17 Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; 18 but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. 19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.
The apostle Paul wrote about this in 1st Timothy 6:9-10—9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. And that will be the desire of the heart of a child that is not taught properly. If children don’t know how to respect their parents and if they aren't taught how to respect their parents and all those in positions of authority, does that let them off the hook when they get in trouble? Well, contrary to what we see happening in the criminal court system in this country, the answer is “No.” Children who disobey and are rebellious are accountable for their own actions. That’s why they need to be taught, like Solomon taught his son, to avoid the rabble-rousers and the riff-raff of the world.
1st Corinthians 15:33—Bad company corrupts good morals. I'm sure we've all heard the expression “One bad apple.” If you take a bunch of bad apples, and you put a good apple in the middle of them, will the goodness of the good apple make the bad apples better? No. What will happen? The badness of the bad apples will cause the good apple to spoil. Bad company corrupts good morals. Paul says again in 1st Corinthians 5:6-7—Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump. So what we have so far is this: children, left on their own, do not know how to respect figures of authority. But even if they are not taught how to respect authority, they are nonetheless responsible for their own actions. So the apostle Paul has these words for parents. Ephesians 6:4—And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. The best way to train a child is to teach them, as early as possible, to teach them about God. Because if they know God, and if they have a healthy respect for Him who is the ultimate authority, then it will be much more likely that they will learn to give the respect to leaders in the church, and to legal authorities, and ultimately their parents.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9--"4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." The best way to train your child in the ways of God is simple—sit down with them and read to them from the Scriptures. And you don’t have to be a trained professional to do it. You don’t need years of study and seminary. When we train our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and we train them up in the way they should go, what is the result? Deuteronomy 6:10-12--"10 So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— 12 then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." If children respect their parents, and they respect their elders in the church and they respect the legal authorities, they are less likely to do those things which will shorten their lives. True? They’re less likely to get into drugs and into gangs and into other sorts of behavior that will cause their lives to not be so long.
Which brings us back to our passage in Exodus. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” If one honors their father and mother—and all their elders, for that matter—they will have a life that will be filled with the goodness of God. The child that does not respect their parents will not respect their teachers. The child that does not respect their teachers will not respect the Law—whether the Law of God or the laws of men. The child who does not respect the legal authorities does not respect God. Romans 13:2—Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Finally, I want to mention that this commandment requires obedience from not only children but from adults as well. Because this commandment is not only to encourage children to obey their parents, but it is also a warning to us to give respect and honor to not only our physical parents, but also to all of our elders. If children are not taught to respect God’s servants, that nation is going to have a difficult time surviving. Our friends Keil and Delitzsch wrote that
“By father and mother we are not to understand merely the authors and preservers of our bodily life, but also the founders, protectors, and promoters of our spiritual life, such as prophets and teachers, to whom sometimes the name of father is given…the guardians of our bodily and spiritual life, the powers ordained of God, to whom the names of father and mother (Genesis 45:8; Judges 5:7) may justly be applied, since all government has grown out of the relation of father and child, and draws its moral weight and stability, upon which the prosperity and well-being of a nation depends, from the reverence of children towards their parents.”If we do not respect the servants of God, then we do not respect God. In one of His parables, Jesus uses a vineyard to illustrate the nation of Israel, He describes God as the owner of the vineyard, and he compares the wicked rulers of Israel to vinedressers who beat the servants of the owner of the vineyard. Matthew 21:38-41—“38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" 41 They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons." Jesus lets them know that they are correct. And then He goes on to tell them in Matthew 21:43—"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." The nation that does not respect God, and does not respect His servants, will lose any and all blessings they may be receiving from Him.
Now, the responsibility to give proper respect to our parents—does it end when we become an “adult”? No, it does not. That responsibility includes not only giving them respect and honor, but caring for them financially as well. It means that when the parents get older, and cannot care for themselves, their children are to care for them. In fact, Jesus had to scold the Pharisees for not taking care of their parents. Matthew 15:1-6--1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition." As always, Jesus takes an opportunity to teach us something, and He does so in response to the false teachings of the Pharisees. Here, they were trying to trap Jesus and His disciples in the tradition of “One must wash their hands before they eat!”
But listen to how Jesus turns their traditions back on them and shows that they are the ones who are disobedient to God because of their traditions. Matthew 15:1-3—1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” Notice something here—He does not deny that His disciples were indeed “transgressing” the traditions of the elders. However, He is quick to point out that the Pharisees were transgressing the commandments of God because of the traditions of their elders. Matthew 15:3-6—“3 Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” What the Pharisees were doing was this: we know they always wanted to look religious and pious in the eyes of men. So what they would do was, if they had to decide whether to give to help their aging parents, or give that money to the service of God, which one would make them look more religious and more noble in the eyes of their friends? They would tell their parents something like this: “What’s that? KUB said they're gonna cut off your lights if you don’t pay your bill? Well, I would help but I was gonna take this and put it in the offering plate this week. I'll pray for ya!” Jesus said, “No, don’t do that! You will dishonor God by dishonoring His commandment and by dishonoring your parents. Take that money you would have put in the plate, and give it to help your parents instead. That is the commandment.” That’s what God meant when He said through the prophet Malachi, in Malachi 6:6—“I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”
The apostle Paul echoes these sentiments in 1st Timothy 5:8—But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. So the commandment to honor and respect and support our parents does not end when we reach “adulthood”. It is an obligation we are to keep as long as our parents are living. We take care of our parents first—that is what Christ is saying. John Calvin put it this way:
“Paul heightens the criminality of their conduct, by saying, that he who forgets his own is worse than an unbeliever. This is true for two reasons. First, the further advanced any one is in the knowledge of God, the less is he excused; and therefore, they who shut their eyes against the clear light of God are worse than unbelievers. Secondly, this is a kind of duty which nature itself teaches; for they are natural affections. And if, by the mere guidance of nature, unbelievers are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling? Do they not go even beyond the ungodly in brutality?” (Calvin's Commentaries, commentary on 1st Timothy 5:5-8)If children learn to respect authority from the top—God—down to the parents, then that respect will also work form the parents up to God. And if a nation of children learns to respect authority, especially the authority of God, then they will be blessed by God. Psalm 33:12—Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. And that responsibility resides with the parents. Let me close with an example of what happens when a child is raised not by parents but by institutions.
“The child was born on November 12, 1934 to sixteen-year-old Kathleen Maddox. He was entered into the ledgers as No-name Maddox. He was a classic abused child, left by his mother for days during the first years of his life. In 1939 his mother was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. When she returned, No-name was eight years old. His life became a long line of run-down hotels, and brutal uncles who came to live with his mother and drank heavily. When he was twelve his mother tried to place him in a foster home. But since one wasn't available, he was sent to the Gabalt(?) Home for Boys in Indiana… After ten months at Gabalt, he ran away but his mother rejected him. He then drifted into a life of crime. At thirteen he was caught for armed robbery and sentenced to an institution from which he escaped. At sixteen he had a long series of crimes under his belt. Finally in federal prison he was attacked and raped. At seventeen he pressed a razor blade against a fellow inmate's throat and sodomized him. He was transferred again and again and classified as dangerous with a long record of violent activity. Finally at the age of thirty-three he was released from Terminal Island Prison in California against his wishes. He had become obsessed with the satanic, he told his jailers that prison was his only home. [We know] No-name Maddox [by the name] Charles Manson.” (John MacArthur, "God's Pattern for Children--Part 2", GC 90-105)Bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord so that they may honor their father and mother and that their days may be long and that it may be well with them.
Jesus Christ is Lord.