The second commandment contains both a severe threat and a most incredibly gracious promise. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 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, but showing love to thousands who love Me and keep My commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:8-10
A Solemn Responsibility
Parents have an awesome responsibility. We are to bring our children up “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4. We are to “train a child in the way he should go ...” Proverbs 22:6
We are to manage our own family well and see that our children learn to obey with proper respect. 1 Timothy 3:4
We are to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done … so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds, but would keep His commands. They would not be … stubborn and rebellious … whose hearts were not loyal to God, who spirits were not faithful to Him.” Psalm 78:4-8
The Bible tells us to not just raise God-fearing sons, but sons who will become God-fearing fathers, who in turn will raise God-fearing sons to become fathers who will love, honour, trust and obey God. We are to raise disciples who raise disciples so that God's generational blessing is passed down and the chain unbroken.
The First Priority of Parents
One of the most important passages in the Bible comes in Deuteronomy 6, right after the restating of the Ten Commandments. It contains the most important statement, the most important command and the first priority of parents:
“These are the commands, decrees and Laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe … so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear O Israel and be careful to obey, so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord the God of your fathers promised you. 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. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates … Be careful that you do not forget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only ...” Deuteronomy 6:1-13.
Here, at a most important occasion, after reminding all Israel of the Ten Commandments, the uniqueness of our Sovereign Lord is proclaimed. Then what our Lord Jesus identified as the greatest commandment is given: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is the summary of all the commandments. And as our Lord reminded us: “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
Educating the Next Generation
The very first application of this, the greatest commandment, is to “Impress them 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.” The education and discipleship of the next generation is given as the very first application of God's Law and the highest priority of God's people. We are not merely to teach a head knowledge, but a wholehearted love for the Lord, not just with all our heart, but with all our soul and with all our strength. Body, mind and spirit, in every aspect of our lives, we are to radiate and reflect our love for our Lord. These commandments should be discussed morning, noon and night. From the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night. God's Word is to be such an integral part of our lives that everything we do with our hands and everything that we think with our minds is to be guided and governed by Scripture. Our homes should also reflect the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life and everything within our gates, even our gardens. People should be able to tell the difference Christ makes in our lives. They should see that we love the Lord and that the Bible governs all of our lives.
If we fail to do this, we may reach the disgraceful and disastrous situation described in Judges 2:10: “Another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done …”
We are in danger of this today since many children of Christian parents are more enthusiastic for Pokémon and Harry Potter (which are occultic) than for the Lord Jesus and the Bible.
“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the Law of your God, I will also ignore your children.” Hosea 4:6
We are commanded in Scripture “only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9
“Their children, who do not know this Law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God …” Deut 31:13
King David's failure to discipline his rebellious son, Absalom, had the most disastrous consequences for the Kingdom, even leading to civil war (1 Kings 1:6).
Of the stories of the Exodus from Egypt and Israel's wanderings in the wilderness the Scripture says: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us …” 1 Corinthians 10:11
The Scriptures also warn us of a time that will come when: “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying its power … always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:2-7
That description could so accurately be applied to much of what is going on in our society today. Notice how the Scripture places those who are “abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful” amongst some of the most brutal and vicious sins.
Respect for Authority
Indeed, God's Law declares: “Cursed is the man who dishonours his father or his mother. Then all the people shall say Amen!” Deuteronomy 27:16
“The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.” Proverbs 30:17
Our Lord Jesus declared: “Honour your father and mother and anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” Matthew 15:4
Tragically, respect for parents and elders is becoming increasingly rare, even in Christian circles today. Yet, God's Law makes clear that we are to “rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly” (Leviticus 19:32) and “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Poverbs 23:22
These commands are not just to young children. No matter what our age, whether we are living under our parents' roof or running our own household, we are still responsible to honour and respect our parents in the Lord. (Exodus 20:12)
“Each of you must revere his mother and father, and you must observe My Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:3
In the light of the overwhelming pressures which assail families, and the relentless temptations that surround young people today, parents must take extraordinary steps to ensure that our children are raised in the love and fear of the Lord. We need to lay solid foundations and form good habits, which will discipline, disciple, strengthen and prepare our children for lives of Godliness and productive service in our congregations, communities and countries.
1. Bible Before Breakfast
It is essential that we establish Bible-centered homes. There are many ways that we can do this. Firstly, we can establish the principle of The Bible before breakfast. Encourage each member of the family to conduct their personal devotions before breakfast or read a passage of Scripture or a devotional reading together as a family before breakfast.
2. Scripture Before Supper
As the evening meal tends to be the most important time of fellowship in most families, it would be ideal to establish the principle of Scripture before supper. This could include reading a chapter of the Psalms or Proverbs each night, or working through some kind of devotional book.
3. Devotions After Dinner
Some families may prefer Devotions after dinner, which could be done around the meal table, in a bedroom, or in the lounge. The important thing is that Scripture, Psalms and Hymns and prayer should be a daily part of every Christian home. This does not mean that these family devotions need to be long. In fact, particularly in families with small children, it is wise to keep family devotions short, cheerful and focused. Children thrive on repetition, and so one could incorporate basic memorisations of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles' Creed. Even 3 or 4 year old children can memorise the Lord's Prayer and some basic Scriptures.
4. Bible Stories and Prayer Before Bed
One of the most important times of any Christian family with children should be Bible stories and prayer before bed. This should be an enjoyable and vibrant time of fellowship, either cuddling up together on the couch or on the bed, using colourful story book pictures if possible, and regularly asking questions and involving the younger children in these great stories from God's Word.
Many parents will protest that they don't have the time for all this. Well, actually you do have the time if you severely cut down on Television and newspapers. In the light of eternity, what good have the multiplied hours spent each week in front of the TV set and pouring through your local scandal rags done for either you or your children? Cut out TV and you'll have enough time to disciple your children.
5. Make Sundays Special
From the earliest, we need to teach our children a love and a respect for God's Word, for the Church and for the Lord's Day. Children thrive on routine and rhythm. That is why ensuring that our calendar reflects our faith is most important. Habits and routine are a vital part of discipleship. We make time for those things we deem important. God has decreed that we work six days and give the seventh to rest and worship. It was so important to God that He gave us His example to follow, by resting after creating the Universe. As Christians, we should repent for allowing the Lord's Day to become so encroached upon and desecrated by shopping, sports and worldly entertainment.
The French Revolutionary and atheist, Voltaire, declared: “If you want to kill Christianity, you must abolish Sunday.”
D.L. Moody observed: “You show me a nation that has given up the Sabbath, and I will show you a nation that has the seed of decay.”
Bishop J.C. Ryle challenged us: “Common sense, reason, conscience will combine, I think, to say that if we cannot spare God one day in a week, we cannot be living as those ought to live who must die one day.”
The Puritan writer, Richard Baxter, advised: “See that the Lord's Day be spent in holy preparation for eternity.”
Any relationship needs quality time and we need to devote at least one day a week to developing and deepening our relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My Holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's Holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance …”
Setting aside the first day of the week as a special day is good for our body, mind and soul. We need time set aside for relaxation, reflection and restoration. It is a matter of rhythm and routine, but also a matter of revelation and remembrance of the Lord's great works of Creation (Exodus 20:8-11) and Salvation (Deut 5:12-15).
By ordering our week to set aside the Lord's Day as a special day for the family, to rest and to worship the Lord, we proclaim to the world that Jesus has risen from the dead and He is the Lord of our lives. Resting one day in seven is also healthy spiritually, emotionally, physically and economically. It is good for business, good for families and good for any country.
Preparation for worship on Sunday begins the day before - ensuring that our children get to bed early enough, to be well rested for Sunday worship. We can also encourage our children to respect where we gather for Sunday Worship and the Lord's day by seeing that they wear their best clothes for the Lord's house. And ensuring that we arrive early enough for worship, with expectant and teachable hearts and minds.
It is essential that we teach our children respect for authority, starting with their parents, and then for grandparents, uncles and aunts, authority in the church and in society. Respect for God, respect for people and respect for property.
6. Scripture Memorisation
Scripture memorisation is a vital tool in discipleship: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word … I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:9-11
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
If we build our children's lives upon the Rock of God's Word, then they will stand in the storms of life that most surely will assail them (Matthew 7:24-27).
These principles of: respect for authority, for the Lord's Day and for the Lord's house; and love for God's Word, the Bible, and for God's people; feeding our children's hearts and minds with examples of excellence from the Scripture and Christian history; ensuring that they receive the Bible before breakfast, Scripture before supper and are sent to bed only after Bible stories and prayer; with much of the Scripture stored up in their hearts through Scripture memorisation, we will ensure that … “when he is old, he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Let us disciple our children by word and deed, by our lives and our lips, by education and by example -consistently (Deuteronomy 6: 6-7).
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in your heart richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in Word or in deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Col. 3:16-17
(Dr. Peter Hammond is the Director of Frontline Fellowship and the author of The Greatest Century of Missions and Putting Feet to Your Faith. Many of his articles and news reports are available on the Frontline Fellowship website: