Truth, Understanding, Insight

Guide for Family Life

29th May 2011, mgh


1) Parents have responsibilities

The Bible presents a guide for the responsibilities of parents and children, and the way by which families can be firmly established in loving and caring relationships.

The Laws for ancient Israel set out the commandments that would develop a nation of faithful men and women. Obedience was essential and it required the dutiful deliverance of the laws from one generation to the next, that is from father to son. It became a father's responsibility to not only know the Law, but also to teach it to his children.

They were to love Yahweh, “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Israel's prosperity would depend upon the obedience, love and faith of the people. The failure of the people over time to adhere to Yahweh's requirements, ultimately, as prophesied led to the dispersal of the people and the destruction of many of them.

That thou might fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers has promised thee, in the land that flows with milk and honey.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shall love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sit in thine house, and when thou walk by the way, and when thou lie down, and when thou rise up. And thou shall bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. (Deuteronomy 6:2-8)

We also have in these verses a very practical approach to be taken when teaching the children. When walking or working in the fields or sitting in the house, in the morning and in the evening, these were the times and places when communication could be made with the children. This would have enabled a closer relationship between parents and children.

In the twenty-first century, such simple outcomes seem far harder to achieve. The electronic and media world and parents' work styles, have made it increasingly more difficult to achieve such opportunities to communicate and talk with children today, and so a more deliberate effort would need to be made to establish communication times within the family environment. An even greater barrier is the general lack of recognition of an all powerful God and Creator in our world today.

In Deuteronomy 10, many of the aspects of reverence, love and fear of Yahweh are again mentioned and Yahweh's great power is described.

And now, Israel, what does the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. (Deuteronomy 10:12-14)

Deuteronomy 11 repeats the necessity of teaching and speaking to the children.

And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sit in thine house, and when thou walk by the way, when thou lie down, and when thou rise up.(Deuteronomy 11:9)

The nation of Israel were given warnings about the responsibilities of the king, if ever the nation chose to set up a king. The king would have to write a copy of the law and commandments in a book, to read in that book every day of his life, so that he might learn obedience, to fear Yahweh and to be humble. He also was responsible for teaching his children.

And it shall be, when he sits upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

In Proverbs the advice to us is to train a child in the way and apply correction when it is needed.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22: 6)
Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul. (Proverbs 29:17)

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.( Proverbs 9:9-10)

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

In each case there is an emphasis on the aspect of instruction and of clear boundaries for behaviour and a reverence and humility before Yahweh. Also there is a need for belief and conviction that Yahweh exists.

Children also have responsibilities

If parents can train the children, it should follow that the principles taught should be retained into adulthood. The Law also gave instructions to the young. The first of the Commandments that contained a promise was related to the relationship between children and their parents. Children should honour and respect their parents.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God gives thee. (Exodus 20:12)
Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God has commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God gives thee.(Deuteronomy 5:16)

Even more significant is the curse that would come on those who did not heed the words of their parents or reverence them. The following passages reinforce this principle.

Cursed be he that sets light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27;16)

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.(Proverbs 23:19-22)

The eye that mocks at his father, and despises to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. (Proverbs 30:17)

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: (Proverbs 1:8)

My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou go, it shall lead thee; when thou sleep, it shall keep thee; and when thou awake, it shall talk with thee.(Proverbs 6:20-22)

A wise son hears his father's instruction: but a scorner hears not rebuke. (Proverbs 13:1)

A wise son makes a glad father: but a foolish man despises his mother. (Proverbs 15:20)

And for those who wish to go their own way and neglect the Law and Commandments there is an important message and a very clear warning.

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgement. (Ecclesiastes 11:9)

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