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)

2) The New Testament sets Standards for Young and Old

The new Testament also emphasises that we must first and foremost love Yahweh. This principle of love is developed throughout the whole of the N.T.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

The epistles look at interpersonal and family relationships. The relationship that should exist between husbands and wives and the responsibilities of children are described as in Colossians 3.

Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. (Colossians 3:19)

Paul's advice to Timothy covers a number of different interpersonal relationships between older and younger people.

Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. (I Timothy 5:1-4)

Ephesians contains a lot of very practical advice from Paul to the Ephesians, and also to us.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the adversary.

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that has need. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4: 25-32)

Timothy's mother and grandmother had been wise guides to Timothy and Paul's advice to Timothy is to continue in their wise counsel and to especially be guided by the Scriptures, that is the law, the prophets, the Psalms and the Commandments, which are the Old Testament writings.

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:14-17)

Timothy had learnt as a child about the holy scriptures, which Paul states “are able to make thee wise unto salvation”. This remains true today but there are many distractions in our world which can tempt and beguile the young. Increasingly the young are choosing their own path and searching for independence.

Although Paul wrote to Timothy two thousand years ago, his words so aptly describe our world today, defined as “the last days”.

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. (II Timothy 3:1-3)

We can expect to see selfishness, blasphemy, disobedience among the young and ingratitude and Godlessness all around us. A knowledge and understanding of Yahweh's divine purpose with this earth, taught and discussed within the home, and a regular family reading of the Holy Bible, can still give families an assurance and hope of life beyond the calamities of our present world and hopefully a better, a more loving and understanding relationship with each other.

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