5th Commandment

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It sounds like a setup to some kids: your parents take you to church where the pastor, who also has kids, reads from the Bible:
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lordyour God is giving you.
Exodus 20:12 (NIV)
Are parents working together to protect their power?
It might be a setup if the 10 Commandments were written by the Church. But they aren’t. These instructions come from God. The command to honour your parents was carved in stone and handed down from on high.
Moses brought God’s instructions for holy living to the people after the Lord rescued his people from slavery in Egypt. God intended to dwell in his own tent in the middle of their camp. Everyone had to be ready, had to be holy, to live in a camp w/ God Most High in all his righteousness and goodness.
God’s command to honour your F&M are is serious than we usually think, esp. when you read the next chap. v 15 & 17:
Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
Exodus 21:15,17 (NIV)
To put this in perspective: cursing your F&M has the same punishment as misusing God’s name; attacking your F&M has the same consequences as murder. Is God serious about this? You bet!
Using the 10 Commandments and other instructions, God shapes his people’s households and community. He guides his people in ways that align with the original design for his creation. The laws are not a list of “dos and don’ts” Moses scribbled on a napkin.
The Creator explains best practises for the life and households of his dearly loved people; people created in his own image, people God rescued from slavery. The 10 Commandments give directions for life and success for God’s holy people.
So: what does it mean to honour your F&M?
The Oxford dictionary says that to honour someone is to “regard [them] with great respect.”[1]Honouring your parents means treating your parents as people w/ special importance to you.
When we are young, honouring our F&M includes obedience in all things that align with God’s instructions. Our parents have both authority and responsibility from God to teach and care for us.
It’s no surprise that this becomes more challenging as children grow and mature. Teenagers are learning to assert themselves, to become independent adults, prepared to establish homes of their own. In our house, we call adolescents “baby adults”. It’s a stage of life that requires grace and dependence on God in both parents and child, yet even in the most godly families there are hurts, misunderstandings, and tears.
The parent-child relationship is a 2-way street. Many teens are thrilled to find these verses in God’s Word to the church in Ephesus:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1–4 (NIV)
F&M have an obligation to be honourable, not to irritate, needle, or cause unnecessary trouble for their kids.
Parents have a responsibility to imitate our heavenly Father. Moms & Dad, Aunts, Uncles, & Grandparents ought to give children and teens a tangible example of God’s deep love and truthfulness.
The goal is to give our kids a taste of what they can expect from their heavenly Father: 100% truth & 100% grace. We need to provide unwavering love and trustworthy guidance. Sometimes that means a stern talking-to or loving discipline and other times tender compassion: a long, tight hug or peaceful silence together.
Sadly, we can all think of times people don’t live up to the 5thcommandment. I’ve let my children down . . . and my parents. All households experience disobedience, brokenness, and sin:
Some of us have been abused by parents or others in authority.
Some of us have abused our authority and harmed the people in our care.
To one degree or another, all our relationships are tainted with sin.
The 10 Commandments are a measure of how things ought to be: how God designed families to work. The fact we don’t live up to God’s standard doesn’t mean we should discard God’s expectations. It means we need to be rescued from sin.
AND the fact that our human fathers and mothers have let us down creates a longing deep inside for our heavenly Father. His love and truthfulness never fail and his compassion and fatherly love have no limits.
While it is an immense relief to know that our parents are held responsible for their sin, it’s frightening to face God’s judgement on our own behaviour as children and as parents. Sin leads to suffering and broken relationships on earth. Attacking, cursing, or being disrespectful to your parents leads to death, not just in the courts of Israel, but also before God, who judges human hearts. Sin leads to punishment and death – not just now, but for all eternity.
But here's the good news: God has rescued his people from judgement, sin, and death by entering into his own creation. Jesus came: fully human; fully God to live a sinless life, offering himself as a scapegoat or whipping boy to take the punishment we deserve.
In Crosspoint’s daily Bible readings, we read examples of how Jesus lived up to this command. If you don’t receive Crosspoint’s daily emails, you’re invited. Even if you’re you viewing this online or on TV, you can sign up. What does Jesus’ obedience look like?
In Lk 2, at age 12, Jesus lingered in the temple when his parents headed home after the Passover. When they found him after 3 days of searching, his Mom was indignant. Although Jesus said he belonged in his heavenly Father’s house, the temple, Jesus honoured his parents and returned to Nazareth with them. After Jesus was rebuked by his mother, Luke tells us:
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. Luke 2:51a (NIV)
Years later, when Jesus is lifted up on the cross, he honours his mother. As oldest son, Jesus is responsible to provide for his widowed mother. Despite his pain and suffering on the cross, he arranges for Mary that the “disciple [Jesus loved] took her into his home” (John 19:27b).
Jesus’ obedience to this commandment goes even further.
Commentators observe that the 5th commandment isn’t just about parents and children. This commandment is a transition b/t the 1sttable of the law and the 2nd. As the transition b/t loving God and loving neighbour, the 5th commandment is the foundation for all God-given authority. Authors of a Reformed Confession say:
Q. What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?
A. That I honor, love, and be loyal
to my father and mother and all those in authority over me;
that I submit myself with proper obedience
to all their good teaching and discipline;
and also that I be patient with their failings— for through them God chooses to rule us.
God entrusts teachers and leaders, judges and governments with authority from him. You find that explained in I Peter 2:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
I Peter 2:13–17 (NIV)
This was a point of contention during lockdowns: submit to gov’t? Move online and to small groups?
Yet Jesus submits to the judgement and punishment of Pontius Pilate. They have a fascinating conversation about power:
“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. John 19:10–11a (NIV)
Jesus submitted to the authority of the Jews and the Roman governor, taking their ridicule, beatings, and eventually allowing himself to be nailed to the cross. It was part of his obedience to his heavenly Father. If Jesus had insisted on his rights, we’d still be under his judgement instead of being saved by his sacrifice.
Jesus’ obedience to his heavenly Father, his submission to human authority, is the way that he fulfills all righteousness on behalf of all who trust in him. He shouldered our shame and punishment when he died on the cross and by faith in Jesus, you are clothed in his righteousness, goodness, and holiness. B/c of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus’ washes you clean of all sin and disobedience.
Now, like the people at the foot of Mt. Sinai, we look to God’s standard of holiness to see what life looks like as God’s holy people, not just living near the tabernacle, but BEING the temple of God. These commands are aspirational: this is what we strive to do more and more as we grow and mature in our faith.
So what does it look like to honour your Father and Mother?
Let me remind you of God’s word to the church in Ephesus:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1–4 (NIV)
What does this look like for you? Should you make changes?
Kids & teens, God invites you to trust your F&M and honour them. He gave you parents or guardians so you could learn and grow. They’re responsible to make hard decisions until you make them yourself. Your parents aren’t perfect, but they are God’s gift to you.
As you grow up, the relationship shifts. You earn independence. You get freedom to experiment with your own choices. Parents ought to work at earning their teenager’s respect as you guiding your baby adults through this transition w/ grace and truth.
As parents age, the way we honour them changes. The role of caregiver shifts from parent to grown child, sometimes to grandchild. The respect we have for parents and grandparents as they age doesn’t result in obedience as much as kindness, thoughtfulness, and care.
Honouring our parents and being honourable is God’s will for our lives. The command comes with a promise of long life in the land the Lord is giving.
· In the OT, this referred to the Promised Land.
· In the NT, can the promise of long life in the land be anything less than long life in Jesus’ Eternal Kingdom?
[1] Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson, eds. Concise Oxford English dictionary 2004: n. pag. Print.
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