First Mennonite Church
June 27, 2021
God’s Heart for Our Children
Text: Ephesians 6:1-4, Deuteronomy 4:5-9
In the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, we find various family stories. Family always implies the presence of children in the lives of an adult couple. Adam and Eve had children and so did Abraham and Sarah, even when they only had one child between them. And although young children were often discounted or overlooked in ancient Israel, God did not discount children. In fact God ordained parents to nurture, train, instruct, and discipline their children. (We know the word “discipline” is often considered taboo in modern societies. Discipline has been associated with punishment, which is not necessarily the case. Discipline has the purpose of shaping good behavior, of helping the development of good habits and morals.) In Hebrews 12, we are told God disciplines us out of love. Again, God ordains parents to discipline their children. God designed the family as the basic social unit for the world he created. When families thrive society prospers, morally and in other ways. When families are dysfunctional, society is impoverished and decayed.
But how does God reach out to children? Obviously, through their parents, first and foremost. That is why in Deuteronomy God gives this directive to parents.
5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
We can only teach what we know. I remember the times I sat in a classroom of one of our public schools here in Paso Robles. I did so at the invitation of the school principal and special education director. I was supposed to go in and watch an interpreter of American Sign Language relay to Josue his teacher’s lesson to the class. Unfortunately, the interpreter even had to ask Josue how to sign some words. She only had some basic knowledge of ALS. When I relayed my concern about this to the people responsible for special education, they told me the interpreter had told them she was intimidated by my presence. I simply told them that when someone knows his or her trade or profession, it does not matter who is watching them do their jobs.
Again, we can only teach what we know, and often times we teach our children without realizing it. In this passage, God was reminding Israel the importance of not forgetting his commandments and his works of power on their behalf. God’s commandments and works of miracles were to be the teaching material for parents to teach their children. Our passage contains two key elements necessary to be successful teachers to our children. This is what our passage says:
5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding . . . .
According to this passage, teaching requires familiarity with the teaching material, which in this case were the commandments of God. As Christian parents, teaching our children the matters of God and faith takes place in various ways. The first key element for successful teaching is found in verse six: observe carefully. To observe can simply mean to look closely at something, like observing your children as they play outside. But the word here means, to celebrate or commemorate something as in a ritual or ceremony, to solemnize something of great significance.
Therefore, God was instructing parents to observe his commandments, but not as a burdensome requirement. Obedience to God’s commandments should be the joyful celebration of God’s goodness and care. Obedience to God should be out of reverence and gratitude. “For in that way you will show your wisdom and understanding for the nations to see,” God tells the Israelites.
In this case, teaching our children, first and foremost, happens when they see the way we live the fear of God on a daily basis. Children learn by what they see parents do. Children learn by what they hear at home. Young children are malleable. They are at the age when their character can be shaped for life. We can create docile, polite, and generous children, or we can create “little monsters” out of them. By nature, children, if left to their own device, they will become tyrant masters to their parents. It is, therefore, an imperative for parents to be proactive in shaping good behaviors and good social skills to their children. These they do by being polite themselves at home, by showing empathy and respect to others, by affirming their children when they do what is right or by calling their attention when they misbehave. Parents should never give up in telling their children what is right from what is wrong, even if we have to tell them the same thing a thousand times.
The second way we can be successful teachers to our children is found in verse nine:
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Perseverance in the journey of faith requires keeping the fire of God burning in the heart. I am sure, each of us know of people who once served God but stopped somewhere along the way. For that reason, as Moses was sending out the second generation of Israelite into the Promised Land, (remember that the first generation all died in the desert) he vehemently urged them to be careful, to watch themselves closely and to never forget what they had seen with their own eyes, nor to let the memories of God’s power and grace to fade away from their heart, but to keep them present as long as they lived.
Children born to Christian parents are comparable to that second generation Israelite these word were addressed to. But obviously, these words were addressed to those who were parents. They were to pass down to their children and to their grandchildren the story of God. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
My dear brothers and sisters, obedience to the way of God not only makes great families, churches, and a positive force in society, but also according to verses six and seven, it makes them to become witnesses of God’s presence in their lives. Those outside are not only surprised by what God does on behalf of those who obey, but perhaps they even admire and envy them. Obedience is not simply a pious concern for the individual; obedience to God also has a public function. It tells others that it is worthwhile, it pays off, to serve God and to follow the path of Christ.
Our children will face a more challenging world. Therefore the heart of God for them is his call to us parents, to prepare them. Parents’ tender yet firm instructions is the voice of God to their children. Parents are God’s compass who point the way of righteousness to their children. Parents are the potter’s wheel where children are fashioned and given shape to become “special vessels, dedicated and ready for every good work” (2Timothy 2:21).
Today we want to dedicate Holt Rudolph Evenson to the Lord. As a congregation, we want to commit ourselves to supporting Ahrean and Catherine in raising Holt, Aymie, and August in the way of the Lord.
I want to invite parents and baby to the front.