Brief Thoughts on Deuteronomy 6 and Parenting

I hope that this post might accomplish one of two things in your hearts. First, some small nuggets of biblical wisdom may be applied to parenting. (I see this applying broader than just parenting…we all have contact with children and teenagers, whether we’re friends of the family or volunteers in children’s ministry. In many ways children are “raised” by far more than just their parents). Second, I hope this serves as an example of how to look deeper into a passage to find fuller meaning. Oh, and one quick disclaimer…at some level you have little reason to listen to me, because I’m not a parent. But I stole these observations from someone who is, and he’s really old and wise.

A quick background will be helpful. The whole book of Deuteronomy is essentially Moses’ final speech to the nation. They’ve been wandering in the wilderness for some time, and soon after this speech, Moses dies, Joshua takes over, and the nation begins entering the Promised Land. So without further ado, here is Deuteronomy 6:20-24 (ESV):

When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.

Observations:

1. Our children ask us (notice, not “if” but “when”). This assumes three things. One, that we have the type of honest and close relationships with children where they are comfortable asking. Two, that God is a normal topic of conversation. These children know to ask why “God commanded.” And three, that our lives look different enough that there is a question to be had (sounds a little like 1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”) They aren’t just asking why God gave us these laws, they are assuming we should know since we follow them.

2. We answer. And notice, the answer isn’t simply supposed to be, “because it’s good for you,” or “because I say so,” or even “because God says so.” Our children deserve better answers than that, for we’re not after simple obedience. We’re after obedience that stems from a heart that is full of faith.

3. Our answers point both backward and forward.

Backward: Part of the answer is in the story that God has given them and us. God’s laws are not arbitrary, he isn’t some taskmaster who emptily demands things from us. No, God commands us only within our history and relationship with him. Israel was to rehash their story, “Look, this is what God has done for us…” And so we should also answer, in part, with our stories. What has God done for you? What has he saved you from? How does that affect how we honor and obey Him? For the God of both Israel and us has proven that he is gracious, he is loving, and he has provided for us in the past.

Forward: But we don’t simply serve and obey God because of what he has done in the past. If you’ve been around The Crossing very long, you’ve probably heard us use the phrase, “the promises of God.” And here, we see that in explaining to our children why we obey God’s commands, we also point forward to the things God has promised. In the passage you’ll see a mention of the Promised Land. It’s easy to forget what time in salvation history it is…but here in Deuteronomy 6, Israel is still in the desert, they haven’t entered the Promised Land yet. So, they’re pointing to a promise of God that is yet to be fulfilled. Our answers to our children don’t have to always rest in the here and now, they don’t have to include tangible and immediate results. God’s promises to us are many, and we must look to them as we faithfully obey.

And finally, what are the results of faithful obedience? Verse 24 gives us two. They lead to salvation (preserve us alive) and they are “for our good always.”

May we be the type of adults who model God’s commands before children, and may we remember our stories and God’s promises when we explain.

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