““Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live for a long time in the land Yahweh your Elohim is giving you (Exodus 20:12)
At first glance, the fifth Word seems to be for children. The instruction is to show proper respect and care to your parents. But, that’s the thing: this honoring thing never ends! When you are older and have your own family to care for, you are still required to respect and provide proper care for your parents. Why? So you can live for a long time, but where? In the land, Yahweh is giving you. Yeah, yeah. I understand that is a Jewish thing because Yahweh is, of course, referring to the land of Israel.
But, that is only one aspect of what this word is saying. Even though Yahweh gave these principles to Israel, they also refer to how we are to act in our lives. It speaks to how those who are redeemed are to live! I don’t mean to be to be too harsh, but we need to know. Now, don‘t forget that Israel was God‘s choice, by His grace, to receive and keep God‘s Word for everyone — not just for themselves.
The word used here for land, in Hebrew, is Adamah. And, yes, it is related to the name of the first created man. But it goes beyond that. Adamah means earth, as in soil, or ground, dirt. For instance, when the Bible tells us that Moses was standing on Holy ground, in Hebrew he was standing on Holy Adamah.
What I am trying to show you is that we will receive the blessing of a longer and more abundant life here and now, on earth, in our daily lives. Simply by treating our parents with the love and respect and care our God expects of us. It is our duty!
Part of the reason is because our family is critical to our Lord‘s plan. When we observe the correct authority structure our God established in your family, we are maintaining our families stability. And in this structure, the parents are at the top.
When any of us violate this command, it damages our family; and damage the family, it destroys all of our society. When our societies are destroyed, our nation disintegrates. It is a simple chain of cause and effect. In fact, in Ezekiel 22:7, the prophet declares that the breakdown of the family was one of the primary reasons the Lord exiled Judah to Babylon!
So, we need to restore the value, the importance of our families, which, as you probably guessed, begins in honoring, respecting and caring for our parents. Now, wait. This is all well and good, but what does it all mean?
Well, that is easy to explain, but not always easy to do. To honor our parents, we are to be respectful. Oh, not just by saying, “I honor you, pop.” No, we are to demonstrate this in both word and actions! It is having an inward attitude of esteem. Not because they are such magnificent parents, but because of their position. The Hebrew word used here means “to revere, prize, and value.” Honor is giving respect not only for merit but also for rank. For example, some Americans may disagree with their President’s decisions, but they should still respect his position as leader of their country. Similarly, children of all ages should honor their parents, regardless of whether or not their parents “deserve” to be honored.
Just realize that this is not just an Old Testament thing. Paul wrote about it in the New Testament!
“Children, obey your parents because you are Christians. This is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother that everything may go well for you, and you may have a long life on earth.’ This is the first commandment with a promise” (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Jeremiah stated that those who honor their parents are blessed! (Jeremiah 35:18-19). However, if we turned it around, anyone who exhibits ungodliness is characterized as having a “depraved mind,” which is seen in disobedience to their parents (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2). Ouch!
Solomon urged children to respect their parents (Proverbs 1:8; 13:1; 30:17). Yes, I realize that most of us reading this message are no longer directly under the authority of our parents, but as I said above, we never outgrow this command.
Let me caution you on one point here. The Scriptures do not say we are to honor and obey our parents. Yes, some may add that phrase, but it does not apply to this command. You can be respectful and honor, without submitting out of absolute obedience. In the Navy, it was drilled into us that we are to follow all instructions we are given, except instructions that were illegal, immoral or unethical. Period. So there are limits to obedience, but not to honor or respect.
Even Jesus submitted to both of His earthly parents (Luke 2:51) as well as His Heavenly Father (Matthew 26:39). If we are going to follow Christ’s example, then we need to treat our parents the way we would reverentially approach our Heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9; Malachi 1:6).
Okay, so how are we to do this “honor and respect” thing? Well, Solomon said, “A wise child is attentive to his parents’ instruction, but the mocker is deaf to correction” (Proverbs 13:1). In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus had to remind the Pharisees about this command. They had been obeying the letter of the law, but they had also added a whole bunch of their own traditions that essentially overruled this command. While they honored their parents in their words, their actions proved their real motive. Honoring our parents is far more than giving lip service, friends. I mean, think about it. The word “honor,” is a verb which demands the correct action.
We should honor our parents the same way that we try to bring glory to our God: through our thoughts, words, and actions. Think about your kids, their behavior goes hand-in-hand with honoring you. It includes listening and submitting to your authority. But, when your children grow up, the attitude they learned will serve them well in honoring other authorities such as their bosses and their government.
Now, I have to make something clear, when you honor your parents, it doesn’t include imitating any of their ungodly actions (Ezekiel 20:18-19). When some parents out there teach their child to do something that clearly contradicts God’s Word, they need obey God instead of their parents (Acts 5:29). I realize that should go without saying, but sadly, in our world, the kids are following the sinful lives of their parents.
The bottom line is that honor begets honor. If you are not willing to honor your parents, Yahweh will not honor you. However, if your desire is to please your Heavenly Father and having Him bring blessing in your life, then, by golly, honor your parents. Please don’t send me angry emails explaining how ungodly your parents are. I realize that this command is sometimes diffiicult. Honoring our parents is not always easy. Nor is it always fun, and certainly not something you can do in your own strength. But our Father makes His Grace available for you. But when you do honor your parents, you will be fulfilling your purpose in life: glorifying your Heavenly Father. As Paul encouraged us:
“Children, obey your parents as God’s representatives in all things, for this attitude of respect and obedience pleases the Lord and will bring you God’s promised blessings” (Colossians 3:20).
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