They escaped slavery and ten of the most horrific plagues experienced by men. God carved a path in the middle of a sea for his people then turned it to a burial site for their pursuers. For forty years, they wandered in circles while He continually provided sustenance. With God’s help, they had fought battles and traveled miles. They were ready to walk into the land which had been promised to a man named Abraham generations before.
The freedom tasted sweet next to the bitter remembrance of hours in the hot Egyptian sun searching for materials to make bricks while a taskmaster stood over them with a ready whip. Freedom felt both soothing and exhilarating in contrast to the panic of being trapped between a vast sea and an angry army.
However, besides the few who had survived four decades of wilderness wandering, no one remembered these events as anything more than stories passed down. A new generation of children were about to taste freedom, milk and honey without tasting slavery, leeks and garlic.
So, when Moses gathered the people to remind them of God’s law it perhaps felt a bit like the restriction of freedom. To those who have never felt the taskmaster’s whip, a code of conduct chafes. And those who have never lived for months on manna alone do not fully taste the sweetness of a honeycomb or appreciate a drink of warm, fresh milk.
God knew the children would ask questions. What do all these laws mean and why do we have to follow them? The question is as old as the Garden and as recent as the morning discussion of whose turn it is to take out the trash.
Deuteronomy 6 answers, in journalistic style, the five questions parents and children have about the law. Implementation is, of course, the true challenge. However, students of the Word cannot doubt God’s will in the matter. Let’s take a look.
It seems the “what” of God’s law would be the easiest for our generation to understand. After all, we have the complete Bible translated into most of the world’s major languages. It is as simple as reading and understanding. Or is it?
It seems the idol worship in cultures around the Israelites threatens us today. Voices everywhere challenge God as the true and only Authority. For those who do claim to follow God and His Word, there are new interpretations discovered all the time. The new interpretations begin to look much like the old interpretations of an idol-obsessed culture.
Deuteronomy 6 tells us clearly what to follow. After outlining the principles we know as the Ten Commandments once again, Moses exhorts them to follow “the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord your God commanded to teach you.” Nothing more, nothing less.
Through Moses, God gave three basic ways for parents to communicate God’s law to their children. If we skip any of these steps, we are in danger of becoming part of the culture and taking our children with us or becoming a different kind of a taskmaster our children will wish to flee.
Hear – It is our job to fully hear, to listen to the Word of God. We cannot teach what we do not know. We have been given much by way of instruction. We must open our eyes, hearts and minds to receive it.
Observe – Parents who do not do the things they teach will never communicate the Law’s importance. Setting the example before our children is crucial. Even if we fail in a point of the Law, we must demonstrate the proper way to correct our course with contrition and repentance.
Love – The main factor separating God’s Law from an arbitrary command of a taskmaster is the motivation for following it. God is the God of relationship. He invites us to love Him in every way humanly possible. This only will keep us. Rules outside of relationship are binding chains, but rules within a relationship are the soft cords that bind it together.
Where and When?
Journalism also strives to answer the questions “Where?” and “When?” The picturesque language of the King James Version combines the answers to these questions very succinctly. “When thou sittest in thy house, when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down and when thou risest up.”
That seems to cover all the possibilities. If you are home, share God’s law. If you are out walking, or driving as we modern families tend to do, tell your kids about God’s law. When you go to bed and when you get up and while you are sitting. Anywhere and at any time.
Of all the questions, this one is perhaps the most important. We can tell our children to do many things, but if they have no reasons for their actions, they will not continue them indefinitely. Through Moses, God communicated the reasons for His children to obey His law:
Because of His Past Provision
God had done enough for the Israelites to secure their love and loyalty for a lifetime. However, they needed to relay that story to their children for their own lifetimes. Over and over again, we should be telling our children all that God has done for us. Our testimony of salvation, provision, protection and continued relationship is the best we have to share.
Because of His Future Blessing
God had made it very clear that obeying His law brought peace and disobedience brought pain. Most of the time, the natural consequences ensure this. If you sin, you will suffer because of the nature of sin. These natural consequences are crucial for our children to experience. So many times, I get in God’s way by padding their fall. As parents, let us strive to allow the natural consequences of disobedience to be an effective teacher for our children.
Because of Present Righteousness
Observing God’s law is critical for our children simply because it is the right thing to do. This is where we have a slight advantage over our Israelite predecessors. All they had to depend on was their ability to follow God’s laws. They were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.
Now, Jesus has paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for us and for our children. If we have chosen to be His disciples, we can obey His law because it is written on our hearts. His righteousness has given us access to abundant life now and life in the Promised Land forever.