Deuteronomy 4:1-9 Teach Your Children Well
There was a song by the band, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young that goes:
You who are on the road, Must have a code that you can live by And so become yourself Because the past is just a good bye. Teach your children well, Their father’s hell did slowly go by, And feed them on your dreams The one they picked, the one you’ll know by. Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry, So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
The song was based on a photograph which depicts a child with an angry expression holding the toy weapon. This picture prompted Nash to reflect on the societal implications of messages given to children about war and other issues. It is also a reminder that children are dependent upon their parents to teach them how to live.
Question, what do we teach our children?
Perhaps the greatest sorrow Adam experienced after the fall was not the loss of the garden, but knowing that because of his action, his children would suffer. When Cain killed Able, part of Adam died. Unless you have gone through such an experience you cannot come close to knowing the pain. God knows, and his pain was even greater as he restrained himself will his only Son was killed by the covenant children that he loved.
In our passage today, Father’s day, we find God speaking to the children of Israel. It is a passage of promise, of covenant, but also a passage that is intended to remind us that what we sow, so shall we reap. What this passage tells us is that God has given us instructions that lead to life. We are given the same responsibility given to Adam. We are to teach the ways and means of our Lord. Again, the question, what do we teach our children?
There are all kinds of theory and ideas being expressed by people who view themselves as experts on the moral development of children. However, it does not matter which theory or school of thought one accepts the one constant factor is that children learn from what is modeled by their parents. From birth to age six, the primary caregiver is also the primary model for a child as they develop physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Again, what do we teach our children?
Our country understands the value of education. This is why we have compulsory education laws. In our schools we teach our children to read and write, do math and learn about science. But what do we teach them about God and his word? Look again at verses 7-9 of Deuteronomy 4. As we look at this passage we view it in the light of history. The history of Israel is a history of divine providence and intercession. No other nation has faced such hardships and yet still exists today. When God’s covenant people kept the promise of this passage, they and their children prospered. When they profaned this promise they and their children knew pain. Again, what do we teach our children?
In the Old Testament Scripture, there seems to be a contradiction in God’s law. In Deuteronomy 24:16 the Scripture states: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own.” However, in Exodus 20:5 we are told: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,”. Is this a contradiction? No, it is not. The passage in Deuteronomy speaks to our direct relationship to God. It is appointed for us to die once and then the Judgment. We and we alone are accountable for our sins. This is an issue of our hearts, of conviction.
There is a story of a young boy and hands a very poor report card to his father and then makes the statement, “What do you think the reason for this is, genetics or environment?” Our culture is good at making excuses, but before the Creator of the Universe we are without excuse.
The passage in Exodus is not dealing with the issues of our hearts, but upon the issues of our culture. It is about modeling a false faith and thus creating a fragile and fearful future for those who follow. When a culture abandons the revelation of the light God has given them, then it becomes hard for those generations who follow to overcome the darkness. What do we teach our children?
Folks the last words, the last promise and warning of the Old Testament is this: Malachi 4:6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” This is the promise of the message sent from God. God was going to provide a way for fathers and children to be blessed. He would do this through the human heart.
What do we teach our children? Our culture models that what matters is money. Our culture models do what you want as long as you don’t get caught. Our culture teaches that church is just another entertainment option and that the Bible really doesn’t have that much relevance other than an accessory for Sundays. We teach our children that the spiritual is not that important but the secular is everything.
What do we teach our children?
Fathers, do your children see you reading the Bible? Do they know you pray? Do you pray with them? Do you praise the Lord with your children? Do they know God is important to you? How important is the church in your life? It was very important to Jesus. Do you children know you tithe? Do you believe God meant what he said in Malachi 4:6 when he said “or else I will come and strike the land with a curse”? What do you teach your children?
We live in a country that has been blessed but is obviously on the edge of being judged. But there is still a way out. There is still time for us to come to our senses and change. We can still claim the promises of God because of who our heavenly father is and the example that he has given to us. Jesus, the Son of God, came to this world as a fulfillment of the last words of the Old Testament. He came to bring us spiritual birth. He came to make us children of God. He came and modeled for us how we should live and love. He told us he and the Father were one and he proved it. He showed us that living for this world was a mistake and the shallow life it offers is the way of death, the curse. He showed us by lying down one’s life to the Lord is the way to restoration and renewal. He came to make us one with the Father. He gave his life to do this so that if we would but believe in him we would find the way. He now stands with the Father awaiting our time. Be he did not leave us alone. In John 16:8 we are told: “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment”, the He is the very Spirit of Christ that lives in the heart of those who accept Jesus. He teaches us what we need. He teaches us through the Word, through our gathering, our worship and service to one another.
What do we teach our children? It is not too late to listen and to learn. It is not too late to love and lead. It is not late Dads to stand and declare, as for me and my house, we will love the Lord. Jesus, our Savior, our God, our living revelation of the Father calls to us. We must decide. Today you have an opportunity to make things right. Today you have the chance to take the initial steps of example setting that leads to life, which leads to the Lord.
I have written some different lyrics for the song I began this sermon with: “You who are on life’s road, need more than a code, that you can live by, And if you live the truth to sins of the past, you must say good bye. Teach your children well, As father’s shall upon God rely, and feed them from the Word, the one God gave, the one you live by. Yes, they will ask why, tell them without lie, just why Jesus had to die, and tell them not to cry, because God loves you.”