How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the instruction of the Lord.
2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
3 They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
4 You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
The Writer of this Psalm knows that the good life is to be found in embracing God’s perfect instructions and walking in them.
You and I were made to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The good life is only had by those who know their Maker and live for him.
As we study the Ten Commandments together, we are studying God’s timeless law, his instruction to his people. And God is perfectly wise, good, and loving in giving us this instruction, which is expanded upon in the rest of this part of the Old Testament, known as Torah, or instruction from God.
Tonight, we are specifically looking at the fifth commandment, which we can read together in Exodus 20:12.
Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
Now, this command doesn’t come to Israel in a vacuum. There is a lot of human history that provides the context for this command, which will help us see just how good it is.
From the very beginning of the Bible, we learn that God made mankind in his image, to represent him in his world by trusting and obeying him. He tells man to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it in righteousness, and he creates the family in order to make this possible. A woman comes under a man’s husbandly authority/headship and care in marriage, and a family is established. They are then to be fruitful and multiply, to have kids. And, if these people are going to represent God in the world righteously, it falls on the husband and father’s shoulders, with the help of the wife and mother, to teach, discipline, and train these kids in the way they should go. God created a familial society to enable the good carrying out of his desire for man to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the world with those who live in trust and obedience to him.
If our first parents, Adam and Eve, had trusted God in this, the whole world would be pure paradise.
But they didn’t, did they? Adam sinned, and in him, all mankind fell into slavery to sin and death. Read through the early chapters of Genesis following Adam’s sin, and you read a record of families joining together intentionally to rebel against God, building impressive civilization not in trust and obedience to God, not in righteousness, but in proud, murderous unrighteousness.
While God does destroy the world with a flood, killing every man, woman, and child, and animal that walked on the dry land and once breathed the breath of life, he doesn’t simply do away with mankind. He saves a family, Noah’s family, and gives them the same charge he gave to Adam’s family. Be fruitful. Multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it in righteousness.
But again, mankind gives itself over, from sea to shining sea, to rebellion against the Almighty God.
God would have been good and right to toss everyone into eternal flames at this point, but in his great mercy and grace, he starts a saving relationship with a man named Abram. He tells him that he is going to give Abram the largest family ever, and that through a son of Abram, God will bless with salvation from judgement all the families of the earth.
It’s from the children of this promise that God builds the nation of Israel. They grew large while in slavery in Egypt. And then God pulled off the impossible, freeing them from slavery, leading them through the wilderness, and giving them a homeland. It’s while he leads them through the wilderness that God gives Israel this particular set of instruction, commonly called the Old Covenant law, with the Ten Commandments front and center, serving as headings for all of it.
And, so, we read this fifth of ten commandments. Honor your father and mother.
This commandment is for both parents and their children, and to obey it is the only wise thing a man or woman could do, for it produces a blessed, good life.
The fathers of Israel, with the help of mothers, are commanded to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the LORD. They are commanded to teach, to train, to discipline, to encourage, and lead the way along the path of following God’s good word.
This is said elsewhere to fathers of Israel.
Deuteronomy 6:1ff 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 multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.
Because the fathers, with the necessary help of the mothers, are providing this instruction, are leading their children in the obedience of faith, the only right thing children can do is to honor their parents, to embrace their faith and practice, trusting and obeying Yahweh. And this is what God requires of them.
Honor your father and your mother.
This is what is said to children in Proverbs.
Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, and ornaments about your neck.
Proverbs 2:1 My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God.
And the commandment comes with a promise, long, enduring days in the promised land. As long as generation after generation of Israelites, because of faith in God, obeyed his perfect, wonderful instruction laid out for them, they would dwell securely in the land of Canaan. This promise holds a warning too. Disobedience would result in death and exile from the land for Israel.
Again, in Proverbs, we read:
Proverbs 2:20-22 So you will walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.
Tragically for Israel, fathers and mothers stopped blessing their children by disciplining them in the instruction of the LORD. His good word and commandments were forgotten and ignored. Children dishonored their parents by living for themselves and not for God.
And so Israel’s time in the land was cut short, ending in bloody exile.
Israel’s history and failures are important for us to know, because it teaches us an ugly truth about ourselves. We are sinners. Left to ourselves, we are unable to honor God as we must, and we will bring our lives and the lives of those we love to ugly ruin.
A number of Jews eventually return to the land from the places of their exile, in fulfillment of God’s word and in preparation for the coming, promised Savior.
Jesus, Son of God and long promised son of Abraham, was born in Bethlehem and lived totally without sin. He obeyed each of the Ten Commandments always. He died for failures like you and me, was buried, and rose from the grave. Everyone who trusts him as their Savior and King is forgiven, their sins taken by Jesus, and blessed forever, his perfect record of obedience given to them, that they might enjoy fullness of life with Jesus, both now and in the next world.
These people who trust Jesus, these people who are saved by the King, he gathers into local churches. And he looks at them and tells them exactly how he wants them to live. And as it has been God’s intention from the beginning for men and women to trust and obey him, to have kids and tell them to trust and obey God as well, all until the end of the world, what we find in Ephesians should not surprise us.
Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Paul speaks to fathers as those who are in charge of their families. And he commands them, implicitly with the help of their wives, to bring up their children, not sinfully, but “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
If you are a follower of Jesus and a father, you are responsible to teach your children to trust and obey God, to trust him for salvation and to follow him into the beauty of the good life in obedience to his word. This is the demand of your King and the demand of real love, knowing that if your children give themselves to lives of sin, they give themselves to lives of destruction and harm, both now and forevermore.
In the local church, we take this command so seriously that the members actually promise one another to help each other teach and train children to trust, love, and obey God.
If you are here tonight and have parents, dead or alive, even though you are no longer a child in their home, under their roof, honor them, honor all your ancestors, honor those who have gone before you as sons of Abraham, believers in Christ, by living a life of trust and obedience to Jesus, a faithful life given over to him, a life spent on the path he has set out for us to walk, the path to the good life.