Today we’re continuing our series on the Ten Commandments and if you’ve got your Bible, let’s go to Exodus 20. In part five of this series we’re going to see how to develop new habits and priorities that will empower us to enjoy a long life according to the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ. A full life, one filled with hope and promise built on a daily one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. So this morning, as we continue working our way through this series, we’re going to take a closer look at the fifth commandment, and we'll be taking a closer look at who Jesus is, his plan, his promise, and his power available to those who follow him.
As we look at this commandment in Exodus 20:12. It’s actually just one verse and yet we’re going to spend all our time on it, because in our day this is like totally new information. It’s like a lost treasure that’s been buried in ancient archive somewhere and since this nugget of divine wisdom has been misplaced, much of parenting philosophy today has been misguided. It has been misguided by worldly speculations of men like Sigmund Freud and Dr. Benjamin Spock and because of their teaching, parents since the ’50s and ’60s began to raise children differently.
Instead of stressing the importance of self-denial and respect for authority, parents began accommodating children’s feelings and catering to their preferences. Homes became child-centered, promoting self-indulgence instead of instilling self-control. And as parents encouraged their children’s “freedom of expression,” feeding their natural cravings, children became more outspoken, more defiant, demanding instant gratification. In fact, many children today see pleasure as their right; and the result is that we’ve created an entire culture of rebellion… we’ve idolized youth… and we’ve encouraged selfish individualism and rebellion.
No longer do children learn to eat Brussels sprouts and suffer through daily chores, but instead their own desires are met by an endless array of products, goods, and services aimed directly to pre-teens, teens, and young adults. Products, goods, and services intended to satisfy the primal urges of a childish mind; keeping them from building deep relationships, preventing them from developing communication skills, inhibiting the possibility of taking on any personal responsibility, and all together avoiding the message we have heard from the beginning: “We should love one another” (1 John 3:11). And therefore, the result is that many children are growing up separated from their parents physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They’re born into a world of rebellion, they’re making bad decisions, they’re harming their own lives as well as those around them, and they’re all acting like a bunch of orphans.
So God meets with his children at the base of Mt. Sinai to redirect them and refocus them on his love, his plan, and purpose for their lives. And so the first four commandments are about our relationship with God. That there’s one God. We worship him alone. Our worship of him begins by how we speak of him. And we honor him with a day set apart to worship him. So now as we get to the fifth of the Ten Commandments, this is where it transitions from God to neighbor, and commandments five through ten are about loving your neighbor, and it starts with your parents and your family. So let’s read together at verse 12:
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
The first question I want to answer is the what. Or maybe I should say the who? You know we always want to answer the questions: What? Why? And how? So who do we honor? It’s actually very simple isn’t it? Honor your father and mother. There’s no fine print… no footnotes… no exception clause… even for those of us who’ve had bad experiences at the hands of our parents. And I don’t want to demean your experience in any way, but what I do want is for you to trust me. You see, here’s the big idea: I think if you could love your parents, you could love anybody. If you could forgive your parents, you could forgive anybody. So are you ready?
Honor your father and your mother. That is the plan. Now how many of you have heard this before? So maybe you’re like, “This is not new information.” But let’s dig deeper. Who do we honor? Well, the father’s listed first. The father is the head of the household. The father is the appointed family leader. The father bears particular responsibility in the sight of God. “And your mother.” You see, the mother is right alongside the father, like a right hand and a left hand, mom and dad are to be working together to love and lead the family.
Now this is rather unusual, because in that day, it would be difficult to find any other religion and people group talk about honoring your mother. But here, what God does is he ranks mothers and fathers in the same place. So there’s God as head, and then there’s mom and dad, with dad being the spokesman, he’s the responsible party, and then there’s the kids. The Bible says it this way, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). And so in honoring your mother and father it is both of them and not one or the other.
Also I’d like to point out that it is a father and a mother. This is the ideal family unit. I know it’s very controversial, but it’s not two guys or two gals. I’m not making this up. I mean you can read it right here in verse 12. The ideal family unit is a father and a what? A mother. So God’s plan is that there would be a father and a mother who would not just be there for the conception, but that they would be there for graduation too. And I know that today that’s controversial; it might be called bigoted or discriminatory, but that’s God’s design as creator, that’s God’s intent and that’s God’s plan. So God commands us to honor our father and mother, so father and mother speak with the same voice, we’re to honor our mother just as our father, because she was taken from his proverbial rib, and that’s what God teaches us.
Secondly, why do we honor father and mother? Well, verse 12 says, “so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Now, the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for over four hundred years. God liberated them through the Exodus. He’d brought them through the Red “Sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left” (Exodus 14:22). They were walking toward their homeland, but they’re not there yet. It’s a promise that God has set before them but they’ve yet to experience it. And you know a lot of life is like that. It’s lived by faith. So we just continue to walk with God until he brings us to that next season, that stage of life, or place that he intends for us.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul quotes this commandment saying, "Honor your father and mother" and then he adds this comment, “which is the first commandment with a promise” and then he says the promise is, "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).
So, we’re to honor both our father and our mother. And why do we honor them? Because God promises it makes our lives better. Now I know this promise was originally given to the Jews as they entered Canaan, but Paul applies it to believers today. And the Holy Spirit wants you to know, that there are promises given in the Old Testament that are yours today. There are words and promises, that the principle behind them is allowed to be removed from it’s original context. And here’s what I mean, listen to what the Holy Spirit says to us in the New Testament.
“God redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 3:14).
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
“Through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).
“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
So this promise given to the Israelites as they entered Canaan, was applied by the Holy Spirit to believers today. And He tells us that the Christian child who honors his parents can expect two blessings. One, that it will go well with them, and two, they will enjoy a long life on the earth.
Now this doesn’t mean that everyone who dies young has dishonored their parents. Paul is just stating a principle: that when children both honor and obey their parents, they will bypass many dangers, sins, and things that could harm or shorten their lives. And we know that biblically, in God’s economy, the abundant life is not measured only by quantity of time, but it is also measured by the quality of our experience.
So, we must learn early to honor father and mother, not only because they’re our parents, not just because God commanded it, but because it actually benefits us… it’s for our good. You see, we need to understand that the sin that so easily entangles… always robs us; while obedience always enriches us. So that which is for God’s glory, is also for our good. And I can promise you, that if our kids will obey us, they’ll be happier. If they’ll take our advice, the way they handle sexuality, friendship, marriage, finances, and education, it’s all going to be very different than if all they do is watch Nickelodeon and play video games. If they’ll honor their parents instead of their peers, their life will go longer, their life will go better, and so will ours.
So number three, how do we honor fathers and mothers? Well first, let’s consider how we honor dishonorable fathers and mothers? I believe this is important, because the Bible doesn’t give any exception clauses for dishonorable parents. So how do we honor parents when it feels like we’re applauding for a criminal?
Let me give you a few ways. First of all, give grace. The Bible says that it’s a “glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). And so sometimes you’ve got to give grace… you’ve got to recognize that your parents are fallen sinners too, the family is often where it’s hardest to live out our faith, and those relationships are not always going to be perfect.
Secondly, give forgiveness. And that’s simply saying, “What you did was wrong. And I know that Jesus died for it, I know that you’ll stand before Jesus and give an account for it, so between you and me… I’m going to forgive… because I’m leaving it with Jesus so I can move on with my life.
And third, give thanks. If there’s anything you can thank God for or thank your parents for… thank them. And you can always be thankful that God is your Father. You can be thankful that even if your earthly father fails you, you have a Heavenly Father who doesn’t. Amen? So there’s lot to be thankful for there.
Now what does honoring your father and your mother look like at different stages of life? Let me just say it this way. You’re a child for a little while, but you’re someone’s child forever. So this morning, if you still have a mom and a dad, you’re still their child and you need to honor them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to obey them. You need to consider their instruction, their wise counsel, but not in the same way that you did when you were four, because there are various stages of life.
So, what does it look like for a child to honor their father and mother? Well if you’re a ten-year-old kid and your mom says, “Clean your room. Take out the trash. Or eat your vegetables.” Guess what you need to do? Just what your mom said. To honor your parents is primarily seen through obedience.
Now as a child begins transitioning to a teenager or young adult, honoring your father and mother shifts from obedience, to respect, which includes seeking your parents counsel. What that looks like is a teenager running stuff by their parents, asking their opinion, and not just making decisions apart from them. And I also believe it’s important that there is respect returned by the parent as the teen takes on more responsibility and matures.
As an adult, what honor looks like is primarily caring for your parents. It’s checking in and checking up on them. You know the assumption is that they fed you, housed you, clothed you, bathed you, and looked after you when you were little and couldn’t care for yourself. As they get older, you’ll return the favor. And so this is the context of Exodus 20:12, this is what God is saying to the fathers, the older children, with elderly parents.
Now what’s amazing to me… and we’ll close with this… is that Jesus isn’t just for grown people. Jesus is for all people, and whether you’re a child, an adolescent, or an adult, whatever stage of life you’re in, you can look to the Lord Jesus and say, “He’s been there. I don’t have a High Priest who’s unable to sympathize with me” (Hebrews 4:15). He’s been there. Jesus had to obey his parents. But, unlike us, unlike our children, he never sinned… and he had sinful parents. I know it’s hard as a sinner to have sinful parents, but can you imagine being sinless with sinful parents. You know what I mean? Can you imagine the temptation to back talk?
Here’s what it says in the Bible: Luke tells us, “Then he (Jesus) went down to Nazareth with them (his parents) and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:51-52).
So how did he resist sin? How did he submit to his parents? How did he honor his father and mother? We read a lot in Luke’s Gospel about the Holy Spirit working in and through Jesus. It was by the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. And so for us, to be a good child of God and our parents, to honor our Heavenly Father and our earthly parents, it’s going to take a new nature like Jesus, to be filled by the same power as Jesus, to follow in the perfect example of Jesus.
Jesus who prayed, "Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done" (Matthew 26:42).
And again, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
The Lord Jesus is the perfect, sinless, Spirit-filled child, and he gives us his perfect obedience, he dies for our sin, and he gives us a new nature and a new power to follow in his example. And like Jesus, it’s possible for little children and young children to know the Lord, to be filled with the Spirit, to honor their father and mother, and to grow in wisdom. We don’t need to accept the rebellious ways of this world. It’s not necessary for the child of God.
What’s necessary then is two things. One to be filled with the Holy Spirit and two to listen to your parents so that it may go well with you, because God loves you, his commands are good for you, and he wants a bright future for you. You see, God’s heart is a Father’s heart, amen?
So maybe this morning, you realize that you’ve been a rebellious, horrible kid, but instead of getting angry and punishing you, God the Father, came as Jesus Christ, and he lived this perfect life as the obedient child that you havent lived, and he died to pay the death that you should pay so that you could be freed, loved, and forgiven. Jesus rises from the grave to give you the Holy Spirit, and he wants to put his power in you so that you can become more like him.
And so if you’ve not experienced his grace, this is where you give yourself to Jesus and you become a son or a daughter of God the Father. Maybe some of you need to go apologize to your parents or thank your parents. Some of you need to get with your parents and sort things out. Some of you just need to forgive your parents. So we’re going to respond now, because we believe that God is a Father who speaks, and when he does, his children respond right? We’re going to sing and celebrate, we’re going to honor God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ by singing to him and celebrating who he is. So, let’s transition into worship as I’m praying for us.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 23, 2014