We are now starting to discuss the last six of God’s commandments.
Through them, God is telling us how to serve others around us properly. Remember the first four commandments dealt with our relationship with God.
A quick detour
Before we get started on the actual fifth covenant command, I want to remind you of a few of Jesus’ instructions.
In Luke 6:31, He said: ‘Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.’
Jesus meant it to start with our family and expand our attention outward. It is an instruction anyone can understand:
How do you like to be treated? Well, you should treat others the same way.
The other instruction from Jesus that we need to incorporate into our covenant walk is Acts 20:35: ‘…It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Through the ages, thousands have found this to be true. Through self-sacrifice and responsibility, one can experience fulfillment and give meaning to our lives in the service of others. If we first serve God, it will be easier to serve others.
For we must do everything as unto the Lord as we can see in Colossians 3:23: ‘Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men….’
Keep these verses in mind when we discuss the next six commandments. They are instructing us on how we should carry them out, in service to those around us.
Honor your father and your mother – The Fifth Commandment
The Fifth Commandment states: ‘Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you’ (Exodus 20:12).
The importance of family
Here, in this commandment, God is shining the spotlight on our familial relationships. He is starting with the relationship between children and parents.
God is telling us here that after our relationship with God, our families are the next most crucial thing.
Why is the relationship between children and parents so vital?
Society depends on it.
How children are raised and how they view their parents is the way society will go.
Deuteronomy 6:1-3 says: ‘Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.’
People often say that children do not come with a handbook. But, that is simply not true, God gave us a ‘manual’ telling us how to raise our children. We must teach them to love God, follow His ways, and teach them to find their identity as His people. For our children who walk in His ways there will be blessings and prosperity.
Even if they should stray, they will always return to what they have been taught.
The promise is in Proverbs 22:6: ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.’
How to do it
Being God’s people is a lifestyle. First, you must know God’s ways yourself. You must trust Him, be willing to follow, and love (serve) Him.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tells us to spend time and to talk with your children while walking, sitting, and even while laying down. If you believe, your children will follow in your footsteps.
We must take responsibility for this!
Part of the problem that people have when they start trying to follow the word of God is simply acknowledging what His word says about the role they are to occupy.
Often people struggle with this. They don’t take on the responsibility that their role involves.
So, the very first step is to acknowledge what God expects from us and then to bend our will to His will.
Children to parents
God is telling children to understand their role and to obey their parents. Just like the parents are to understand their role and to obey Him.
Nothing will have a more positive impact on society then obedient children obeying their parents who are honestly obeying His covenant.
How serious is God about the role of the obedient child?
God is deadly serious.
Without the blood of Jesus and our repentance, all violations of His covenant lead to death on judgment day. However, the disobedient child was to be dealt with particularly harshly because if left unchecked, it would mean the downfall and even the death of the society.
We can see the seriousness of this commandment in its punishment under the covenant in Exodus 21:15: ‘He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.’
And in Exodus 21:17: ‘He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.’
And under Levitical Law in Leviticus 20:9: “If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his blood guiltiness is upon him.”
When we first read about this in the Bible, we are horrified at the prospect that children who strike or curse their parents can be punished by death, but when examined in detail, we can start to see the genius of His intent.
The first thing that we must understand is that God’s intent is not that anyone should die. He wants children to be obedient and parents to ensure that children are, indeed, obedient.
Under the threat of such a dire punishment, all parties are on high alert to perform their prescribed roles to the best of their ability, which means God’s word on raising children must be carefully examined and followed. This is probably why there was never a recorded incidence of a disobedient child being punished by stoning; all parties involved took their roles seriously.
The role of parents in children’s lives
God’s word gives a lot of instructions to parents. Each instruction is to be carried out in love, which is in service to the child, not the other way around. Here, we only touch on two.
Spend time with your children
If you don’t spend time with them, you can’t instruct them according to Deuteronomy 6:4-7. If you don’t spend time with them, they won’t have the opportunity to observe you and see how you handle life in godly ways.
We are to be keeping the Sabbath, if we are following God’s word. The Sabbath is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our families to discover God’s word together and to build a bond with them. This is not the same as just sitting there watching TV, playing video games, or staring at our phones!
Proverbs 13:24 states: ‘He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.’
Diligent discipline is what parents who love their children do for them. There are consequences of not disciplining our children.
The incarceration rate in the US is often attributed to missing fathers. Loving discipline teaches us self-control. Without self-control it is impossible to walk according to His ways and it is this lack of self-control that is often the reason that people wind up in jail.
We can see that self-control is a fruit of the spirit and leads to salvation and away from fulfilling the desires of our flesh in Galatians 5:16-24: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Self-control comes from loving discipline inside of a good family structure without which comes the opposite, seeking the pleasures of the flesh.
A different society
How different would society look, and how many lives would be saved if people were able to identify their roles and accept the responsibilities that come with those roles in service to others and not themselves?
People are suffer and society is effected because we shrink from the responsibility of our role as parents in our family.
Of course, today, we won’t stone our children if they are disobedient, but we do kill them if they inconvenience us or we abuse them if they anger us.
Pregnancy should be a sign that we are to be parents. As God’s people who can identify our place according to how we are to serve others we must rise to the occasion and serve that child according to God’s ways.
I am suggesting that we understand the seriousness of our roles as both children and parents. We must perform our functions with the up-most of diligence according to the instructions that God has given us. There are consequences to our actions, whether we want to acknowledge them or not. Not taking responsibility for our roles as parents leads to:
Everything that comes about by putting ourselves first over those we are to be serving. Seeking our own pleasures and not walking in the service of those around us, which is the hallmark of God’s people.
One day, on the day of judgment, the blame will fall upon parents or the children. Someone will be brought to justice.
The Protocol of Killing the Child
There is a prescribed protocol to God’s word before a child could be stoned.
Deuteronomy 21:18–21 states: ‘If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.’
Just like there is a penalty for children not obeying their parents. We need to understand that our punishment for disobeying our Father in Heaven is the same, death.
We can see that no one person was authorized to kill their child themselves; there was a process that had to be followed.
1. The child had to be brought before the elders of the city for the judgment to be passed.
2. A trial of sorts would be held, and all parties involved would be subject to questioning before a determination could be made. This was an important decision, and a wrong decision meant there would be blood on the hands of the elders (After the Levitical priesthood was established, the child was be brought before the priests).
Additionally, “all the men of his city” had to be involved in the decision to stone the child.
This is significant since people of “his city” would have long ago heard about the problems that this family was dealing with, and if there was dysfunction involved, it would come out.
In such an environment, nothing was to be hidden. All the dirty laundry had to be laid at the feet of the elders for a decision to be made.
3. Also, we need to understand that the child had to be at or above the age of accountability before they could be brought before the elders or the priest. The age of accountability is thirteen years old. Still, from the text itself, we can see the addition of “a glutton and a drunkard,” which would increase the age considerably, to maybe even eighteen or nineteen.
The due process after the establishment of the Levitical priesthood was similar.
The child would be brought before the priests who would interview all the parties involved.
The reason for this was to determine the why of the child’s disobedience. In other words, was there abuse going on in the home that needed to be dealt with, or a lack of discipline etc…
We must keep in mind that particular abuse, like sexual abuse, was also punishable by the death of the guilty party. This process was a very good way to root out an abusive situation inside the home.
The Situation Resolved
Often, as one could imagine, the situation would handle itself pretty quickly, and an agreement would be reached.
The penalty was not on the disobedience itself but because, as we saw in Deuteronmy 21, “when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them.”
It as only a child who was disobedient and was not willing to change their ways who was stoned.
However before that, if the child would not listen to the priests, then the child and the parents would be brought before the high priest, and the interviews would begin all over again.
It was not the intent of anyone involved to have the child killed, but the purpose was to root out the problem and come up with a solution. Only after the failure of all that could the punishment be applied, and the child stoned.
After such an extensive process, it should come as no surprise, as I said before, that no record exists of a child ever being stoned for striking, cursing, or being disobedient to their parents.
Because of the extreme gravity of the situation, you can bet that lots and lots of counseling was given and received, abusive situations discovered, and most important, families found workable solutions and were restored.
To the majority of the children, their roles were clear, and the idea of death for disobedience acted as a real understanding of their role and a real reason to be obedient to their parents, which probably lead to less need for corporal punishment and a smoother, more harmonious family life.
Likewise, parents were more inclined to understand and obey their role to be good parents according to God’s ways considering the punishment if they did not serve, teach, and discipline their children properly. Not that the punishment by a life of poor choices that come about by undisciplined children are any less dire today, they were just more apparent and immediate with the punishment being so clearly outlined. If corporal punishment was needed, you could bet that the parents did not hesitate and did not strike out in anger but applied the sentence in more of an effort to protect their children from the real possibility of death, so the child could learn from the discipline.
The effects of parenting in defiance of God’s instructions were made plain for the entire community to witness, judge, and to punish.
My Final Point About the Beauty of God’s Plan
The surrounding community carried the role of designated judges if a child of their city was brought before them.
As such they paid attention to the families around them because one day they may be asked to pass a judgement. It was in everybody’s interest to make sure that each family was operating according to God’s word and, if not, to bring it to the attention of the priests.
Again and again, in accord with God’s infinite wisdom, His instructions meted out properly brought about solutions. It might be hard for us to understand today, but it created the foundation for the most successful societies that the world would ever see.
Parents as the authority
Parents have a role in overseeing their children. Parents are the authority the children are to trust, learn from, answer to, and obey even as the parents are to trust, learn from, and obey our Father in Heaven.
The Character of God
The parents must carry the character and ways of God when dealing with their children acknowledging that God is their authority.
Then it will be easy, when a child is ready to go out into the world and to make his/her own decisions, to simply transfer the authority that they gave to their parents to God Himself in their own relationship with Him.
In other words, God assumes the place of the parents in the lives of the children.
Ultimately, the parent has simply to hand the child off to God, who is now their recognized ultimate authority. Their job is finished.
This is the same that Jesus does with us. When our transformation is complete, we are to be handed off to God the Father to live with Him in direct communion, and we become joint heirs with Jesus.
Jesus is trying to prepare us to stand before God, the Father. This is why He tells us John 14:6: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’
We must trust Him, learn from Him, answer to Him, and obey Him so that one day when we are handed over to God the Father, we will trust Him, respond to Him, and follow Him while standing before Him in His full glory.
Sometimes it is hard to trust God. We might think we know better. But, if we are willing to walk in faith, we can be a witness to God’s truth and wisdom carried out in our very own lives.
Our ways lead to suffering, death, and destruction, just look around in the world today! His ways lead to life, wisdom, and blessings.
We’ve Got Jesus
The Levitical priesthood no longer exists. The new covenant of Jesus has replaced it (the new covenant is only partially in place until the end of this age). We are the new priests and as the priests of His new covenant we have not been tasked with the enforcement of His word but with the performance of His word as a witness to His goodness and the truth of His word.
We are only to live according to His ways inside of the roles that He has given us to occupy.
Jesus is our faithful and righteous judge. It is he who will one day judge us all according to our deeds and His word. His judgment will be fair.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
Next time we will look at the fifth commandment some more, and our specific roles inside of our families.