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Responsibilities of Fatherhood (Deuteronomy 6:1-19)

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Introduction

Deuteronomy 6:4-10 has been called the Magna Carta of the home which would guarantee the happiness and well being of the family in the purpose of God. But while it is an important passage for the home, this passage must not be used outside of its overall context and purpose or it loses its real impact for the home.

One of the chief purposes of this section of Scripture is a call to ministry and testimony as the people of God through obedience to God.

Exodus 19:6-7 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. ‘These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him.

Deuteronomy 4:6-8 “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD OUR God whenever we call on Him? 8 “Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

Deuteronomy 6 is not simply a call to obedience for obedience’ sake or obedience for happiness’ sake, nor is it just a passage with principles for the home. It is a call to obedience for God’s glory, as an evidence of love for God and for a ministry to the world through the perpetuation of faith in the Lord from generation to generation. Personal blessing was promised, but primarily as a by-product of relationship with the Lord, not as an end in itself.

As God’s people today (the church of Jesus Christ), this is not unlike our call and responsibility (1 Pet. 2:5-12). Remember, these Old Testament principles, warnings, and exhortations are given for us today as examples to us and for our instruction and “that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

There are three key notes that form the background and backbone for this passage in Deuteronomy:

  • Obedience as an evidence of love and reverence for God.
  • Warnings against forgetting the Lord.
  • The need of the transmission of God’s truth to the coming generations—godly parenting (cf. Ps. 78:1ff)

Deuteronomy 6 shows us how this is to be done or what is necessary if we are to be an obedient people who do not forget the Lord and who seek God’s Word with careful obedience handed down from generation to generation.

The Call for Obedience:
Communication of Truth
(6:1-2)

Deuteronomy 6:1-2 “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, 2 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.

Deuteronomy 4:10-11 “Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ 11 “And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom.

The experience at Horeb in Deuteronomy 4 was designed to produce a reverential fear of God in the hearts of the people so that a covenant between them and the Lord would be possible. In the Old Testament the fear of God is more than awe or reverence though it includes both. Fearing God is to become so acutely aware of His moral purity and omnipotence that one is genuinely afraid to disobey Him. Fearing God also includes responding to Him in worship, service, trust, obedience, and commitment.

That day at Horeb God’s omnipotence was displayed in the fire … black clouds … deep darkness, and the voice of God that thundered from the heavens. His moral purity was displayed in the Ten Commandments, called His covenant (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

Of course, the perpetuation or transmission of faith and truth into the hearts of each new generation was vital to continued obedience and the privilege of remaining in the land where Israel could enjoy its blessings and fulfill God’s purposes for them as a priesthood nation to the nations.

The Foundation for Obedience:
Hearing God’s Truth
(6:3-4)

3 “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!

Hearing God

The foundation for obedience begins with listening—with hearing the Word. Hearing is a protection against scarring or hardening (Heb. 3:7).

These verses are addressed to the nation of Israel. But in particular, they are addressed to parents—especially to fathers and grandfathers because of their leadership role according to Scripture, and because of the responsibility of parents in the perpetuation of faith in their children. This is clear from the context (cf. verses 2, 7, 20).

Dads, the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family is to make hearing the Word of God one of the greatest priorities of your life and the lives of your children. Our children must learn the importance of hearing and knowing the Word of God formally and informally. Hearing, knowing, and obeying the Word is critical to our spiritual growth and walk with God, to our ability as parents, and to the lives of our children.

A little girl, with shining eyes and little face aglow, said, “Daddy, it is almost time for Sunday school. Let’s go! They teach us there of Jesus’ love, and how He died that we might all have everlasting life by trusting in Him!”

“Oh, no,” said Daddy, “not today, I have worked so hard all the week, I am going to the woods and to the creek. There I can relax and rest. I must have one day to rest, and fishing is fine, they say. So run along. Don’t bother me. We’ll go to church some other day!”

Months and years have passed, but Daddy hears that plea no more: “Let’s go to Sunday school!”
Those childish years are over and that Daddy is growing old, when life is almost through,
he finds time to go to church. But what does daughter do? She says, “Oh, Daddy, not today. I stayed up almost all last night, and I’ve got to get some sleep!” (Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, #1628, Assurance Publishers, p. 431).

Next, the text teaches us the foundation of obedience and godly parenting is:

Knowing God

The purpose of hearing the Word is to know the Lord. “Hear” is the Hebrew shama, and means “to hear and understand, or to hear with discernment.” Hearing the Word must never degenerate into religious formality or into merely a religious routine in which we do our ‘nod to God,’ but afterwards immediately forget God (cf. Ps. 50:22). The text will show us, that our purpose for hearing the Word and its truth is to really know God intimately and personally, to so understand the truths of Scripture that they become the means and guide to a personal relationship with the Lord. We do “not live by bread alone, (i.e., by the details of life) but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” We need to live by God’s Word that we might personally know God and put our trust in Him.

We need to understand how much we lack of the knowledge of God. We must learn to measure ourselves, not by our knowledge about God, not by how many verses we can spit out by memory, not by our gifts or talents or ministry, but by how we pray, by how we commune with the Lord in His Word, by what goes on in our hearts, and by our level of obedience to what we know (For a wonderful study on this need, see J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God).

The rest of verse 4, “…The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” is debated as to its exact meaning. It may stress the unity of God, or the uniqueness of the Lord (i.e. there is only one God like Yahweh). Ryrie writes,

Verse 4 is subject to various translations, though the statement is likely stressing the uniqueness of Yahweh and should be translated, “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” A secondary emphasis, His indivisibility, is apparent in most English translations. The Lord’s uniqueness precludes the worship of any other and demands a total love commitment (v. 5). This confession does not preclude the later revelation of the Trinity, for the word God (Elohim) is a plural word, and the word one is also used of the union of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:24) to describe two persons in one flesh (Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, Moody, p. 285).

Verse 4 gives expression to what was to be the heart of Israel’s confession of faith, namely, Yahweh was not a pantheon of gods, nor was He one of the gods of the ancient mystery cults. He was the only true God who was one in essence, but clearly revealed in the New Testament as three in personality.

The point is we must hear the word to learn about the Lord that we might know Him and live in the light of all that He is as the sovereign and holy God of the universe and savior of our lives—the God of redemption and revelation. This is very important. A proper perspective about God is vital and fundamental to our love and obedience to Him, and our to ability to trust Him for all of life. Without this knowledge embedded in our hearts and functioning as the rock of our lives, we will pursue the gods of the world; we will experience the emptiness of materialism and fall for one of the many traps of Satan. As we come to know God, we learn that we need no other god’s—He alone is sufficient to meet our needs and to fulfill our lives; indeed, He is our SUFFICIENCY, OUR ONLY ONE.

As we study His Word and come to know Him, we learn to trust Him, and this in turn is transmitted to our children.

Obeying God

“Hear” in verse 4 includes the idea of “to hear and obey.” The point is that we really have not heard unless we are following through with obedience, acting on the precepts of Scripture. We must act in accord with Scripture (6:2b-3a, 4), from the heart, from an intimate understanding and relationship with Him or we have not truly heard. Note the words, “to keep all, …” “be careful to do it,” and “hear.” Taking Scripture as our index is the point here: we must realize that we cannot guide our own lives.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.

Note the following principles:

(1) Knowledge without obedience is never enough.

(2) Knowledge that is without obedience is only partial knowledge. Indeed, it is knowledge without understanding. It constitutes information without spiritual understanding and insight.

(3) To truly know the Lord is to desire to obey, and then to obey!

To have met with the living God is to change. That means obedience. Otherwise, we have merely had an encounter with ourselves religiously and emotionally. Parents who refuse to obey God themselves are teaching their children disobedience. The clearest and loudest words our children ever hear, are those of our own example.

  • Children who live with critical parents learn to be critical.
  • Children whose parents scream and argue learn to do the same.
  • Children whose parents find all kinds of excuses to miss Bible class and church will find it easy to do the same.
  • Children whose parents are not involved in ministry and concerned for others, will likewise be indifferent to the needs around them.

When Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University, he spoke these words to a parent’s group:

I get many letters from you parents about your children. You want to know why we people up here in Princeton can’t make more out of them and do more for them. Let me tell you the reason we can’t. It may shock you just a little, but I am not trying to be rude. The reason is that they are your sons, reared in your homes, blood of your blood, bone of your bone. They have absorbed the ideals of your homes. You have formed and fashioned them. They are your sons. In those malleable, moldable years of their lives you have forever left your imprint upon them. (Tan, #4174, p. 960).

The Nature of Obedience:
Love for God
(6:5-6)

5 “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; …”

The Extent of Love

We are to love the Lord totally, “with all our heart,” and to give ourselves to Him unreservedly. This is the tough one, not because the Lord is so hard to love, but because we are so prone to self love and selfish pursuits. We are so like the old hymn says, “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”

When we struggle to obey, it is simply and plainly the age old problem of ‘conflicting masters,’ and ‘treasures of our hearts.’

Matthew 6:19-24 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (NASB)

We need, therefore, to re-evaluate our values and our priorities. We might consider these two questions:

  • How real is God to me?
  • Is my relationship with Him merely intellectual?

The secret to loving the Lord is knowing Him. And the secret to knowing Him is Bible study and prayer. If we do not love the Lord and make Him the supreme priority of our lives, the chances are very high that neither will our children. And, only our love for the Lord will cause us to make the training of our children, or godly parenting, a priority in our lives. Otherwise, we will tend to neglect our children for our own pleasures, or business, or other personal pursuits.

How often have we not read of men or women who have made it big in business, in the theater, in sports, or even in ministry, yet dismally failed with their children. Dads, our children may become successful by the world’s standards, but if they do not end up living for Jesus Christ, in love with Him and concerned for His values, then, in God’s eyes they are failures and it just may be because we have failed in our responsibility. We need to be reminded that children have their own volition and can turn away from godly parenting, but too often it is because we ourselves have failed to live for the Lord as we should.

Proverbs 15:17 Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, Than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it Than a house full of feasting with strife.

Do you believe what these Proverbs say? Where are your priorities, dad?

The Nature of Love

“These things are to be on your heart.” “These things” refer to the things of God and God’s Word. To “be on your heart” means “to be on your mind, in the center of your thoughts, and the object of your devotion.” It means our relationship to God and our obedience to His Word is contrasted to the tablets of stone. It means our relationship is not to be merely legal and mechanical, but spiritual and reflective. Love and obedience are:

  • Spiritual—not mechanical
  • Central—Not peripheral
  • Primary—Not secondary

This means we learn to live and think in terms of biblical principles and the realities of God in everything we do. The word of God becomes the grid and framework for every aspect of life, for home, work, worship, or play (cf. 2 Cor. 10:4, 5).

All of this forms the foundation for the next point:

The Propagation of Obedience:
Teach and Model the Word
(6:7-9)

7 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. 8 “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt; and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 ‘Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23 and He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers. ‘ 24 “So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD OUR God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25 “And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.”

This forms a natural progression. We aren’t capable of truly teaching until we are first following, hearing, obeying, loving, and being occupied with the Lord ourselves. We must model the Word as we teach it.

There are five ways the text shows us this teaching is to be done.

(1) Diligently—though parents have many other important tasks and responsibilities, none are more important with greater implications than this responsibility. It must not be taken lightly.

(2) Incisively, Accurately—this is included in the word “diligently” which means “to sharpen” and then “to teach clearly, accurately, incisively.” Our teaching must be clear and precise, not in vague generalities.

(3) Repeatedly—these verses indicate teaching is not a once-in-a-while or a one-time effort. It goes on all the time. The secret to learning is repetition.

(4) Naturally—it is to be done when we sit, walk, lie down, and rise up. In other words, we are to look for teaching opportunities by word and by example through the everyday activities of life in the home. Also, compare verses 20 and following for the practical outworking of these things through the natural curiosity of children. The home is the natural God-given place to communicate and display the Word of God. It’s the place “where life makes up its mind.”

(5) Personally—(cf. 4:9). What our children learn in Sunday school and church is important, but we can’t rely on this alone. This passage is speaking to parents, not the church. Training is first and foremost the responsibility of the parents (cf. Eph. 6:4 addressed to fathers). Again, this stresses modeling. What one says is rarely as influential as what one does.

As mentioned in the first part of this lesson, when parents listen, obey and love, they provide a model for children which reinforces what is being said in the home.”

Warnings Regarding Obedience:
Don’t be like the World
(6:10-19)

10 “Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied, 12 then watch yourself, lest you forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him, and swear by His name. 14 “You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, 15 for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the LORD your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.

16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. 17 “You should diligently keep10 “Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied, 12 then watch yourself, lest you forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him, and swear by His name. 14 “You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, 15 for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the LORD your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.

(1) This is a warning against loving the world (vss. 10-15). There is in this warning what seems to be almost an axiom. We rarely absorb cultural advances without also absorbing moral and spiritual values as well. The land of Canaan was advanced in material culture. Cities were well laid out, and houses showed good design and construction. Floors of buildings were often paved or plastered. Drainage systems had been developed. Workers were skilled in the use of copper, lead, and gold. Pottery was among the finest anywhere in the world. Extensive trade was conducted with foreign countries, including Egypt, Northern Mesopotamia, and Cyprus. In technical knowledge, the Canaanites were much more advanced than the Israelites who had spent the past forty years in nomadic conditions of the desert.

History show that less developed cultures are normally absorbed by those more advanced. In years which followed, Israel did not become absorbed by Canaan, but she did experience profound influence. Had this involved only material culture, such as pottery manufacture, city construction, or methods of farming, there could even have been benefit; but when it came to include ways of thinking, ideas, and especially religious belief and practice, the harm was great (Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel’s History, Zondervan p. 169).

There is a spiritual principle here: In prosperity people tend to forget God and instead put their trust in material things. This in itself is bad enough, but another problem always results—we absorb the viewpoints and attitudes of the world around us.

(2) This is a warning against testing the Lord by rebellion and disobedience (vss. 16-17). This will eventually result in personal and national discipline, always.

(3) This is a warning against losing sight of godly goals, a warning against failing to live purposely for God (vss. 18-19). We must never lose sight of why we are here. We are not simply here as earthdwellers to pursue our own selfish goals. Rather we are pilgrims. The minute we lose sight of the ‘pilgrim’ mentality, we are in danger of becoming absorbed with the world. The result is that we fail as parents, because we have first failed as God’s children ourselves.

Jonathan Edwards was the son of a godly home. His father was a preacher and before him his mother’s father. Note the history of the offspring of this godly man:

More than 400 of them have been traced, and they include 14 college presidents, and 100 professors, 100 of them have been ministers of the Gospel, missionaries, and theological teachers. More than 100 of them were lawyers and judges. Out of the whole number 60 have been doctors, and as many more, authors of high rank, or editors of journals.

In fact, almost every conspicuous American industry has had as its promoters one or more of the offspring of the Edward’s stock since the remote ancestor was married in the closing half of the seventeenth century. (Tan, #4182, p. 962).

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