Schooling has changed a lot in our time and these massive educational changes of our age can overwhelm us. From issues of who can use which bathroom to different fundamental philosophical perspectives, navigating parental choices in education can be extremely difficult. When faced with uncertainty it is always best to go from what we know is true as our foundation and then work towards what we don’t. Deuteronomy 6 can helps us in its general equity to see the importance of the spiritual education of our children.
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. – Deuteronomy 6:1-6
Israel was rescued from Egypt, they were physically saved from an evil Kingdom which ruled them. They were freed from forced service to pagan Pharaoh into the service of the LORD. Notice the pattern, first they are freed and then God gave them the law. You were first freed from sin and the kingdom of darkness so that you can follow God’s law. You don’t follow God’s law in order to earn your freedom. As members of the New Covenant, not every statute and rule given in the book of Deuteronomy is binding on us as if we were in the Old Covenant. However, the principles, the moral truths, and the revelation of God’s character through the law are still applicable to us today. So why is God giving this law? “That you may fear the LORD your God.” It does not just stop with you though, it is so that, “you, and your son, and your son’s son” may also fear him.
In verse four we begin with the first rule; the statute from which all other statutes flow. In fact, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was this is what he quoted. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This great commandment isn’t just what we should do, it starts with what we should believe. It starts with a theological truth that the LORD, Yahweh, is our God and that Yahweh is one. We believe that truth and that is why we must love the LORD with all our heart, soul and might. God is due and worthy of love. To not love God is the greatest of crimes for he is extremely lovable. If someone held in front of you the Mona Lisa you would be horrified if they ran a black sharpie across it to make doodles. Due to its cultural heritage it is worthy of respect, honor and care. God is infinitely more worthy, precious, awesome and amazing than the Mona Lisa, and thus requires all of your love. It is not enough to go through the motions of obeying rules, you must love him. From this love all true obedience and all other commandments flow.
Not only is God lovable because of his worth, but also because he first loved us. When we are commanded to love him with our heart, soul and might; these are exactly the very things that Jesus Christ on the cross gave for you. His perfect heart ceased beating, he took on sinfulness when he had no sin, with might and power endured the scourge, nails, pain and turmoil of the cross.
The passage reads, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Before you can teach the commandment to your children, they must first be on your heart. The commandment starts with you. Romans 2:20-23 give us this warning, “an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. “
You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:7-9
So how do you teach them? What is the method used to you teach them spiritual truths? 1. “When you sit in your house.” As you sit, relax, entertain, have hospitality and talk with one another the instruction of the Lord should fill your home. 2. “As you walk by the way.” Religion should not only be a private matter but must be lived out in the world. If your children are sheltered from the world, they will never be able to see you teach them while you walk out in the world. Seclusion is not the method of godly, Biblical education and training. 3. “When you lay down and when you rise.” In essence, all the time. Your entire day. As you should be viewing every situation in your life through the light of God’s word, you should also express those truths to your children. How should I biblically deal with this irrational customer? How should I deal with the man in the parking lot asking from money? Psalm 1:2 says of the godly man, “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Spiritual instruction is not just going through a curriculum, it is not graduating from a degree program. What Deuteronomy 6 shows us is akin to an apprenticeship. An apprentice moves beyond theory into practice. They shadow their mentor to see what to do and why. An apprentice is then supervised while they put into practice the principles they learned and saw until with greater and greater independence the mentor can draw back and allow the apprentice to flourish on their own. Our goal is not to raise children, it is to raise godly men and women.
Lest the burden of this sacred duty overwhelms us we must remember a basic fact. We do not make Christians, God makes Christians. Our children will never be saved because of us, and that is good because we make terrible saviors. So we teach them with humility, realizing that we are sinners teaching sinners. They must be saved the same way we were saved, only by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Be diligent to do your duty, but trust in the Lord to bring increase.
The Rabbi’s made ornaments on doors, homes and even foreheads into a strict law, but the point is that your mind, home and life should be so consumed with God’s word that even your decorations reflect it. Fill your home with reminders of God’s word. Because God’s word fills you, you will want its truth on your doorposts, bracelets and gates. God’s truth isn’t something you put in a dark closet, it’s something you want painted on your life as it consumes your heart. Look for ways to commemorate and remember in your home and with your family that you serve God. For as we will see in the next point, there is a grave danger that we may forget.
And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised. – Deuteronomy 6:10-19
There is a danger of the Lord’s blessings without the Lord’s instruction. God had promised to bless them, to bring them into the promised land, gave them cities and houses they never built, gave them wells they never dug, vineyards and orchards they never planted. The danger is that they may forget.
Verse twelve says, “Take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” If you do not pass on the teachings of the Lord you and your children will forget where the blessing came from, and who gave the blessings to you. We can begin to think that it’s our work that gave blessing. We can rely on the blessings rather than rely on the Lord of the blessings. We pervert God’s good gifts and turn them into gods themselves.
It is not enough to work hard, we need to teach why we work hard. It is not enough to educate your children, you need to teach why you educate your children. It is not enough to love your wife, you must teach why you love your wife. It is not enough to enjoy a stable home, food on the table, and a roof over your head; you must pass down why you enjoy a stable home, food on the table and roof over your head. Lest you and your children forget.
Therefore, do not go after other gods, do not make idols of blessings, and do not trust more in worldly philosophies than in the word of God. Where any system departs from the word of God, we depart from it. God is a jealous God, and he will not leave his people to practice idolatry. God disciplines his people and he will not allow worldly philosophies to override his law. If we are not critically and carefully thinking through the scriptures and applying them to everyday life, then we most likely have a worldly philosophy in one form or another. The reason I can say that is because we are surrounded and inundated with worldly philosophy even when we don’t realize that we are. If we just go with our gut reaction and assumption, it is a sure way to drift along with the current. Just because others are farther down the stream of worldly views doesn’t mean we may not be on the same river with them.
When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’ – Deuteronomy 6:20-25
If you are walking in the Lord, renewing your mind with the word of God and teaching your children; there will come a time when your children ask, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” They may look you in the face and say, “But, Dad or Mom, why?” Do not take such questions as challenge, take it as the time when they have begun to actually think about what you have been telling them all their life.
Based on this text what should our answer to them look like? “Son, Daughter, it is because we were slaves to sin bound under Satan. And the LORD brought us out of the kingdom of darkness with his mighty hand. The LORD showed signs and wonders in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and plundered the household of the evil one. He brought us out from there, that he might bring us in to his people and give us an eternal land that he swore in eternity past. The LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. He has given us the way to walk in righteousness, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”
The reason we teach our children, is because what God has done for us. The reason we teach our children, is because God the Father has made us his children. The reason we teach our children, is because God the Holy Spirit teaches us. The reason we teach our children is because God the Son in his death and resurrection, freed us from being slaves and destroyed the enemy that bound us. We don’t follow nor teach commandments because we are slaves, we follow and teach commandments because we are free.
The spiritual education of our children is our duty, in its content, method, importance and reasons. But God has not merely left us to ourselves, he has given us this task and he has also equipped us for it. So in the face of a myriad of educational other issues that you must choose for your child, be diligent in the spiritual education of your children. As you look to Christ and grow in him he will enable and equip you as you lead your children in the way of truth.