THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS
A STUDY OF DEUTERONOMY 6:4-9
Written by Ron Hutchison

[Note: This is a sermon that was presented at the Hickory Grove church of Christ
It was presented before the November 2004 U.S. Presidential election]

I don't believe there has been a time in my lifetime when there has been such an attack on the home as there is today.  From the so-called "homosexual rights movement," the TV shows and movies of the entertainment industry, Federal judges who think they have a right to change the will of the people, to some so-called "Christian denominations," there is a concerted effort to destroy the home as God has ordained it. 

In Kentucky, we are going to have the opportunity to support the home as God would have it when we go to the voting booth on November 2nd.  We can do this not only by voting for those people we believe will support marriage as it is defined by God in His word, but by voting for a proposed amendment to the Kentucky constitution that will define marriage as being between one man and one woman.  If this passes, it will ban all perversions of marriage with the exception of adulterous marriages.

There should be no question in our minds that Satan wants to destroy the home.  It has been the bedrock of our society all these many years.  There should also be no doubt that he has been successful in many areas of our country and the world. 

In America we find Satan's destructive forces powerfully at work.  Someone once said, "home is a place where you hang your hat."  However, I think we can amend that statement by saying that many homes today have become places where you hang your head," hang your head in shame, because things too sinful to mention have moved out of the bars and houses of prostitution and are now found in many homes in America!  Even in Christian homes unhappiness often exists.  There is often an attitude of rebellion that enters the home which results in shouting and fighting and sometimes even physical attack. 

We must understand that we can't sit idly by and allow the home to be destroyed in this nation.  We must do everything we can to use the weapons God has given us to fight against Satan and his agents.  But we must recognize that although we can employ some weapons of the world (such as our vote), we will not be successful in fighting this war against Satan until we use the most powerful weapon that God has provided to us.  The apostle Paul wrote, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4).  The war we are fighting requires a change in the way people think.  The only way that thinking can be changed is with the power of God's word.  To be successful we cannot depend on the weapons of the world, we must depend on God's word (the Bible).  We are to be involved in "casting down arguments" and "every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God."  The arguments used to support homosexual marriages and other perversions of marriage can be "cast down" if we will use the word of God.  If we will have the courage to teach God's word we will discover a weapon of mighty power that can counteract the strong forces of evil that are at work to undermine and destroy our homes .(Hebrews 4:12)

There is a key passage in the Bible that deals very effectively with this subject. That passage is Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  It reads as follows:  "Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one!  You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Before we begin our discussion of this passage, let me deal with an objection we often hear when we bring a lesson from the Old Testament.  It goes like this: "I thought we lived under the New Testament.  Isn't it a waste of time to study from the Old Testament?"  I realize that we do not live under the Old Testament today. However, it is profitable to study the Old Testament because of what the apostle Paul wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope"  (Romans 15:4). The "things written before" and "the Scriptures" in this verse refer to the Old Testament. Paul says the Old Testament Scriptures were written for our learning.  So, even though we are not to go back and obey the specific laws of Moses, there are lessons to be learned that apply just as much today as they did then.  There are specific principles dealing with God's will that have application for all ages.  This is true of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

TWO SIMPLE DIVISIONS

As one reads our text, he finds that the passage falls into two simple divisions.  There is the first statement of the greatest truth that man can ever discover in life, the oneness of God, and then the statement of man's relationship to Him. The nature of God is the key to everything.  It is in reality the summation of Christianity.  From this statement of the nature of God and our relationship to Him, all the teaching of the Bible grows. 

There is the revelation of the one true God: "Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one!"  It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated "God" in this verse is elohiym. This is the same word used in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God [elohiym] created the Heavens and the Earth."  The word is plural. Even though the Bible in Deuteronomy 6 says Yahweh is one, that does not mean that Yahweh is only one person.  Even in this affirmation of the oneness of God, there is the plural which indicates the Godhead.  The Godhead is the one true God, Yahweh. 

This is the secret behind every investigation of man in the realm of science, psychology or sociology.  Every road leads to Him. Every investigation must start with Him.  He is the explanation of human history.  This is why the inspired Psalmist wrote, "The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom..." (Psalm 111:10). Unless you start with God, you will end up in chaos, ruin and every foolish and evil thing. 

The only proper response of man to Yahweh God is to love Him with all our being.  "You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."  Notice that it doesn't say here that we are to serve Him, or slavishly obey Him, but love Him.  Service and obedience are the result of loving Him.  If you love God, these things will follow.  Jesus once said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15 ASV). There is no doubt in Jesus' mind that if we truly love him, keeping His commandments will naturally follow. 

This is the key to life: to love God.  This is the whole of Christianity, the whole story of God's redemptive love.  The cross, the resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit to reveal God's will, the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world, believing and obeying the gospel.  All of this is summed up in the love of God.  All of this is simply a way by which God has made it possible for us to love Him. 

When you think about it, aren't we human beings made to love?  There is not a person living today who does not love someone or some thing.  Human beings must love. That's what we are made to do. The tragedy of humanity is that without Jesus Christ sinful people love something other than God, and what we love in the place of God becomes a god in our lives.  People love many things: it might be something of a material nature. It might be another person.  It might be an idea, fame, money, power, a career. But in the Bible we learn that it is possible for us to love God!  This is the central reason for living, the answer to why human beings are on this earth, the realm where the real blessings that each of us seek exists.  To love God. 

Since this is true, then it follows that the person who knows how to love God will walk the right path and be spiritually successful.  The children that these people produce will also learn to love God and will be spiritually successful.  If we learn to love God everything else will turn out all right.  That is the central truth of life -- a truth that many of us unfortunately have not learned to appreciate yet.  Would that every young parent would learn this great lesson now and not wait until it is too late like some of us older folks have. 

Now, I want to ask a question of you parents.  Since it is true that the most important thing in life is to love God, and that everything else follows from that, if you had one wish above any other, would that wish not be that your children would learn to love God?  Surely it would be.  In the verses that follow, beginning with verse six, we have four steps clearly outlined that must occur in a home if children are to learn this greatest of all secrets: How to love God.

IT BEGINS WITH PARENTS

"And these words, which I command you today shall be in your heart" (Deut. 6:6).  Note that step number one begins with you as a parent.  Here is the first responsibility that you as a parent must carry out.  God must be all-important to you or He can never be important to your children.  YOU must love God in your heart!  The heart here is the mind.  Your mind must be filled with the love of God.  Is this how it is with you?  Do you desire more than anything to love God with all your heart?  Is this the supreme goal in life for you?  This is where you must begin.

If you do not have love for God first place in your life, then I would suggest that you are not only doing yourself great spiritual harm, but are also harming your children.  If you love something other than God -- if God is not first place in your life -- if your greatest desire is not to love God -- then you will cause your children untold spiritual harm. 

In one of the most sobering passages that ever fell from the lips of our Savior, Jesus said, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6).  I know this passage has a spiritual application to Christians, but surely it applies in regard to your children. 

So this is where you begin -- a heart that loves God.  That is the first step.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN

The second step is in the first part of verse 7.  "You shall teach them diligently to your children..."  Here is personal instruction -- imparting information about God to your children.  This means teaching them the Bible, because it is the Bible that teaches us and informs us about God.  Here is declared the responsibility of parents to instruct their children in the revelation that God has given to us about Himself.  No one can truly love God without knowing Him.  Thus, the first step in teaching our children how to love God is to teach them to know Him. That means teaching them what the Bible says about God.

Notice the pronouns that are used in this passage. "You shall teach them diligently to your children."  Not they, but YOU!  This is not the job of the Bible class teacher or the church.  It is YOUR task!  The church cannot substitute for the parents in this realm.  At best the church and it's Bible classes can only supplement what the parents teach.  We hear a lot today about the church losing it's young people.  As a result, there are all kinds of youth programs started and "youth ministers" hired to conduct these programs.  Could it be that the loss of young people to the church is not to be blamed on the church, but on the parents who are ignoring their responsibilities to teach their children to love God? Surely!  There are entirely too many parents who are trying to give the responsibility of teaching and raising their children to the public school system and/or to the church.  They are so busy "making a living" and working to provide material things for their children and themselves, or spending their time on the pleasures of this life, that they are failing in the most important aspect of life -- to love God themselves and to teach their children to love Him. God places the responsibility of teaching your children to love God directly upon your shoulders.

TEACH THEM TO LOVE GOD
BY USING EVERYDAY THINGS

The third step in teaching your children to love God is found in the latter part of verse 7.  "...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."   

I don't believe the application of this verse means that parents are to be preaching to their children all the time.  It does not mean that you take every occasion to preach a moral sermon about everything that happens.  It means that the truth of God relates to everything in life, and the challenge to parents is to find what that relationship is and use it to illustrate the principles of God as the occasion demands.  We have the opportunity to use the everyday things that happen in life to teach God's word and to teach our children to love God. 

Jesus Himself is the perfect example of this.  Read through the gospels and see how He draws His illustrations from life around Him.  The birds, the trees, the flowers, the process of sowing and reaping.  The animals such as sheep, wolves and pigs.  He also used human life.  Here is a arrogant Pharisee and Jesus draws a lesson from him.  Here is a woman giving all that she had and Jesus uses her to teach a great lesson.  Here are innocent, unspoiled children and He sits one in the midst of the disciples and teaches a great truth.  The whole of life was the resource from which He drew His lessons.

Here is one of the failures of some Christian parents.  Parents who intend to do good, but who have not yet seen this simple secret.  Do not most of us parents try to impart scriptural truth by moralizing?  Don't we sometimes take a verse in the Bible and beat our children over the head with it until they give in or rebel?  I know, I've done it!  But it should not be that way all of the time.  There must be an unforced, natural application of truth to life and life to truth. 

Now I don't want to be misunderstood here.  I'm not saying you should never preach to your children.  There are times when they, like all of us, need that.  But not all of the time.

THE SIGN OF AUTHORITY  

In verses 8 and 9 we have these words: "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Here we have further responsibility for parents.  Now we're not supposed to take this literally as the Jews did.  They made little boxes in which they put passages of Scripture and then tied them to their hands and put them on their foreheads and between their eyes and tied them to their gates and on their doorposts.  I'm certainly not advocating that must we do that today.  But what is the principle here? 

Notice first, that it says "you shall bind them as a sign."  A sign is something visible which produces belief.  When Jesus performed miraculous signs He did so for two reasons: First to produce belief in Himself as being the promised Messiah, and second to show His authority as the Son of God (John 20:30-31).  The sign here in Deuteronomy 6 is that which establishes authority in the home. 

You may be one of those parents who say, "My words just fall on deaf ears with my children. They just won't pay any attention to me. What I say just seems to roll off them like water off a duck's back."  If you are saying these things, then there is a good chance that you lack the sign of authority!  This part of the Bible has never been fulfilled in your home. What is this sign which establishes authority in the home?  It is the visible evidence that you, yourself, practice what you preach! 

It is to be a "sign on your hand."  That is, what you do, because the hands are the means of activity.  Your deeds must reflect the fact that you love God.

It is to be a sign "between your eyes."  This is what is in you mind -- what you think.  Your attitudes are to display the fact that you love God.  Your thoughts and attitudes are to be controlled by love for God.

It is to be on the "doorposts" and "gates."  This is talking about the avenues of contact with the world around you.  Your neighbors, friends, family and others.  Your children, watching you, are to see that your love for God is reflected in your attitudes towards your neighbors and friends and even toward  your enemies. 

This is the sign of authority. You don't have any other.  It is a failure here that makes us try to shore up our sagging authority by rigid controls, threats, begging and sometimes even tears.  But our visible obedience is to be the basis of our authority in the home. 

Did you know this is the basis of authority that Jesus claimed for Himself?  In John 10:37-38, Jesus said to the Jews who were questioning His authority, "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him."  Jesus is saying, "You've been listening to my words and if I what I am doing is not the works of my Father -- if it doesn't back up what I'm saying, then don't believe Me."  How many of us would dare to say that in our home?  Have you ever said to your children, "do as I say, not as I do?"  It doesn't work and it will never work!  Why? Because the basis for real authority in the home is obedience to the word you are declaring.  If you have this, you don't need any other kind of authority.  Unfortunately, some of us have learned this lesson too late.  Our children have seen our inconsistent lives and have rebelled against us and rejected God.  You young parents who read this: If you don't learn anything else from the study, please learn this.  Your authority in the home is based on your consistent love for and obedience to God!  If your children see inconsistency in your life, they will suffer untold harm. 

Now this doesn't mean that we must live sinless lives, for none of us can do that (1 John 1:6-8).  However, it does mean that when we sin or make mistakes our children see our love for God in making things right. They need to see and hear us praying for forgiveness and see that we have repented.

CONCLUSION

Now this kind of study is either very encouraging or very discouraging.  We either react by saying, "I'm on the right track, I just need to keep on," or we say, "Well, it's too late."  But let me encourage you, no matter where this great truth finds you, start where you are.  I know it's hard not to look back and regret the past mistakes we have made, but we need to begin right now to apply these great principles. Even if our children are grown, we must begin right now to perhaps influence our grandchildren.  Such is the grace and mercy of God, such is the glory of His nature and character, that He will forgive us of past failures and help us to begin again (1 John 1:8-9).  So begin right now to put these great principles into practice in your home.


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