This Sunday, Pastor Jake will be reflecting on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Teaching Our Children to Love and Obey Our God. This is a beautiful passage which calls us to remember who God is and who he has called us to be as his children and people. This involves shaping our thoughts and beliefs, along with shaping the work of our hands through the laws and commands God has given us through Jesus.
Teaching Our Children to Love God
July 03, 2022
How many of you remember the Andy Griffith show? In one of the episodes, a hobo told Andy he should just let his son Opie "decide for himself" how he wanted to live, his dad Andy had these words of wisdom. "No, I'm afraid it don't work that way. You can't let a young’n decide for himself. He'll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it. Then, when he finds out there's a hook in it, it's too late. Wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter that it's hard to convince ‘em that other things might be better in the long run. All a parent can do is say 'wait' and 'trust me' and try to keep temptation away." Today, too many parents today are more worried about being their child’s friend than in being their parent. This is at the heart of today’s passage that Evan and Dawn chose for today’s service; what is the parent’s role and responsibility?
I love that you chose this text for Theodore and Oskar’s baptism as it shows that you understand the importance of your responsibility to raise your children to know and love God, to understand who Jesus is and what he accomplished for us on the cross and the forgiveness we find in Jesus’ loving sacrifice there. Parents have the most influence on their children’s lives; never under estimate how your beliefs and faith will shape your children’s faith. Their friends will influence your children, but in the end, your children will look to you for guidance and values. The more we get to know God, the more that love for God grows in us.
It all begins with the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Shema comes from the word “listen;” basically Moses is telling the Israelites to listen to the Lord and his call on their lives, reminding them who God is. The Israelites are camping at the foot of Mount Sinai after being rescued by God from slavery and the power of Egypt. They’ve been in Egypt for 400 years and have grown from Jacob and his family into a nation now. But over those 400 years, the Israelites have also embraced an Egyptian way of seeing gods, believing that there are many gods who all needed to be appeased and feared. You never knew what these gods really wanted or when they’ll get into a bad mood and mess around with people’s lives just because.
Moses is reminding the Israelites who their God is, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of creation, the one and only God who is one and not many. Their worship and obedience are rooted in their confession that, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” God asks for their love, not their fear, and this love is a deep love that comes from their heart and soul with all their strength. Moses goes on, “These commandments that I give to you today are to be on your hearts.” It’s wise to see, like Evan and Dawn have, that these commandments are given to the Israelites as a gift to help shape their love for God by being on their hearts, and on our hearts.
One of the key ways we show our love to God is through obedience, to taking his commandments seriously and trusting that God knows and wants what’s best for us. God gives Israel his laws to create a holy people whose character, both as individuals and as a community, was built on the foundation of worshipping and following God in every area of their lives. Jesus later on tells his followers that their obedience was how they showed him that they love him, “If you love me, you will keep my commands,” Jesus said. Jesus summarizes all his Father’s commandments by first repeating Moses, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” which is the point of the first five of the Ten Commandments, and then Jesus adds, “and love your neighbour as yourself,” as the point of the last five commandments. The Ten Commandments protect God’s honour by telling us how to relate to God, and they protect our neighbour from our selfishness and greed.
This is where the parenting comes in, “Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This is every day, going through the day faith growing in your kids. This is intentional faith training in your children. As parents, your main task is to show them who God is, help them see God all around them, the book of creation that the Belgic Confession talks about, and to shape how they live as the children of God, shaped by his values and centered on his commandments. It’s a parent’s task to show how the commandments reveal to us who God is, what the heart of God is and what our hearts are to be like.
I love the imagery of how we’re supposed to impress the commandments into our children’s hearts and lives. Talk about God while you’re at home, sitting at the dinner table, or while doing chores around the house, or while simply being together. Today Moses might have said, talk about these things while on your laptop or watching television, talk about them on the way to volleyball, badminton, or hockey practices, and share with your children at bedtime how you’ve seen God at work during the day as you pray with them and sing them the Shema song. When you get up in the morning, as a family, begin by thanking God for his grace and ask for his guidance in the day ahead. This is how you make faith a day long part of your lives as a family and as individuals; teaching yourselves and your children to see God at work everywhere you go and every place you end up. When this becomes a regular part of your children’s life from an early age, it creates habits of faith that remain with them through their entire life.
The Israelites are told to tie the laws of God on their hands and on their foreheads to shape their work and their thoughts and beliefs so that they are always working for God and honouring God with their thoughts and plans. They place specific texts from Exodus and Deuteronomy in these little boxes called phylacteries, or in Hebrew, tefillin. The two leather boxes contain hand written parchment scrolls of the pertinent passages in the Torah from Exodus 13:2-10 and Exodus 13:11-16, which are about consecrating every first-born male to the Lord, and from Deuteronomy 6:1-8 and Deuteronomy 11:18-21 which are calls to teach the children to obey the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 11:18-21 echoes our passage about fixing these words on their hands and forehead and teaching them to the children, and then adds this promise “so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”
Then in an echo back to the exodus out of Egypt, which is still very recent in the minds of the people, they’re told to “Write them, these commandments, on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,” an echo of the blood of the lambs that was spread over their door frames to protect them from the angel of death. The people heard this as the law giving them the gift of life. Later on, God, through Jeremiah promises a new covenant, different than the one here at Sinai, Jeremiah 31:31–34, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
When our hearts are turned to God, obedience flows out of love rather than obligation. This is why Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit after his sacrifice for our sin that brings forgiveness and grace; the Spirit works in our hearts to transform us into the people of God who are a blessing to the nations as we model Jesus and go make faithful disciples shaped by the Holy Spirit and live out Jesus’ command to love God with everything we have and are and love our neighbours as ourselves.