There was a young preacher who just graduated from seminary. He was about to preach his first sermon on the subject of parenting so he entitled it ‘10 Commandments of Parenting’.
A few years later, he got married, had his first child, understood a little bit about the difficulties of parenting. He preached the sermon again but re-titled it ‘The 10 Suggestions for Parenting’.
After his second child, he preached this again, and the title became ‘10 Hints on Parenting’. When he had his third child, it was called ‘10 Prayers for Parenting’. And when his children grew up to be teenagers, the title of his sermon? ’Help me, Jesus!’ Being a new parent, I found this quite funny.
I was studying the book of Deuteronomy in July when I reached chapter 6 – which is the Shema, for ‘Hear, O Israel’ in Hebrew. Some Jews teach their kids the Shema as soon as they learn to talk. The word Shema means ‘take heed!’ or ‘listen and obey!’
The highest form of worship in Hebrew eyes is the study and obedience of the Word of God. It’s the core confessional text of Judaism for good reason. In this passage is a compact description of what it means to know God. It shows that, if you truly believe in Him, you’ll obey Him – not just in your personal life but your family and corporate life too.
This is an incredible portion of Scripture – a little lengthy – but really precious. In verse 20, a son asked his father, “What is the meaning of these laws?” Here’s what the son is saying – “Dad, I see you obeying God in every area of your life, I see you trusting God unconditionally but, why should I?”
What’s interesting is that the father’s answer does not go straight to verse 24, which says “Because God commanded it.”
I’d say, in general, when children ask their parents, “I see you living for God. I see you going to church, obeying Him. But why should I? Don’t make your problem my problem.” In other words, “Why should I obey the commands?”
Some parents scroll right to verse 24 and reply matter-of-factly, “Because God said so.” The answer is another command, another principle. “Well, because He’s God. Because you just have to.” If all we do is just say, “Because God commands it”, in the short run we’ll get compliance, but in the long run, that will not satisfy a child’s heart and allow true affection.
The answer to “Why should I obey the commands?” is not another command, but a story. That’s why I’m so grateful for verses 20-23. It shows what the father ought to say. He begins by telling his child the story of the Exodus, the story of the Good News of the Gospel.
It’s the story of God coming into history to save us by His grace. So the father would recount how the Israelites were in slavery, and God broke into history with the 10 powerful plagues in His display of power.
But how did the Israelites get out? Because they’re as sinful as anyone else, and were in Egypt when down came the Angel of Death. How did they get out? The blood of the Lamb. Before the law went on the doorposts of Israel, the blood went up. The Angel did not differentiate who was good or evil, who was an Israelite or Egyptian. It was only by the blood.
Because, on the night of Passover, because of God’s judgment, the Israelites took shelter under the blood of the Lamb. They slew a lamb, ate it, and put the blood on the doorposts, so that the judgement of God would pass over. They hid themselves under the blood.
That was the answer, at least as far as they knew at the time. “Why should we obey the law?” The answer wasn’t “We obey the law; otherwise, God will get us, or we obey the law so God will take us to heaven.”
But “We do not deserve mercy and grace, but God has lavished it on us. We don’t obey the law out of fear and coercion, but out of love and gratitude. Before the law went on our doorposts, the blood was on our doorposts. That’s the reason we can put the law on our doorposts, because we know God is for us, and He has redeemed us by grace.”
One day, I’ll need to share the Good News to my two kiddos and I pray that their hearts would be good ground. I think I’d share my journey with the Lord, how the Lord rescued me from a time of darkness and brokenness.
I’d share stories on how I wasn’t good enough, but He still showed me mercy and caused my heart to believe and love Him. And, in the telling, I’m praying God will open their little hearts to the beauty of the Gospel.
The most important gift we want them to receive is one that only God can give – ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Our parenting can’t save our children, but God can use our homes to foster good soil for the Gospel to take root and flourish. Each time we teach them what’s most important in life, we’re reminding ourselves. It affects our choices, hopes, and prayers for our children. We can never punish our kids to holiness, but we can expose their hearts and souls to the beauty of the Gospel from a young age.
Then they’ll ask us why we believe what we believe, and why we obey the Lord. Don’t just prepare a principle or a command, but share the history of grace.