10. Raising Godly Generations (Deuteronomy 6:1-25)Related Media
December 3, 2017
Many years ago, Marla and I used to enjoy the TV series, “Little House on the Prairie.” One of my favorite episodes was when Charles and Carolyn (the father and mother) left their farm on the prairie to travel to Milwaukee for a 25-year high school class reunion. They discovered that most of their old friends had become wealthy and sophisticated. The simple Charles and Carolyn didn’t fit in with the high-society, well-to-do crowd.
But while their friends were well off financially and appeared successful, it also was apparent that they had unhappy marriages and empty lives. At the end of the program, as Charles and Carolyn returned to their humble little farm, their children bounded out of the house, delighted to welcome them home with hugs. Charles remarked to Carolyn, “Now if that’s not success, I don’t know what is!”
“Amen!” In America, we wrongly view success in terms of money, fame, or career success. But God views success in terms of godly, loving family relationships. Our text tells us not only how to raise up godly children, but also godly grandchildren (Deut. 6:2). So our goal and prayer should be that our godly children raise godly children who in turn raise godly children. It’s the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” There are four generations there: Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and others also. That multi-generational discipleship process should take place in our families.
So how can we, as Christian parents, raise up godly generations? Moses preached Deuteronomy 6 to Israel as they prepared to enter the land of Canaan. They would face many temptations in the land. They would be surrounded by pagans. His point is:
To raise up godly generations, love God fervently, teach your children diligently, and live in the world carefully.
Then it will be “well with you” (Deut. 6:3) under God’s blessing.
1. To raise up godly generations, love God fervently (Deut. 6:4-6).
Deuteronomy 6:4-6: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is 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. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.”
The most important requirement for raising godly generations is for you to have personal reality with God. You cannot pass on to your children what you do not possess. This requires two things:
A. To love God fervently, you must know Him through His Word.
Verse 4 is called the “Shema” (from the Hebrew, “Hear”). This is the central tenet of Judaism, recited daily by devout Jews. The call to hear implies that the following words are very important and must be obeyed. What we are to hear is, “Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one.” It can also be translated, “Yahweh is our God; Yahweh alone.” It means that Yahweh and only Yahweh is the true and living God, and He alone is to be the object of our worship. As the Lord proclaims (Isa. 45:5), “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God.” He is one God who exists in three co-equal, co-eternal persons, as implied in several places in the Old Testament, and made explicit in the New.
For example, in Isaiah 48:16, Messiah says, “And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” There are three divine persons there. In Genesis 1, we see God creating the heavens and the earth, with the Spirit of God involved in the process. God uses the plural pronoun (Gen. 1:26), “Let Us make man in Our image.” (See, also, Gen. 3:22; 11:7; Ps. 45:6-7; 110:1 compared with Matt. 22:41-45; Isa.6:8; 9:6; 42:1.) The New Testament clearly reveals that Jesus, who is God, was actively involved in the creation of all things (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2-3). In Revelation 1:8, the Lord God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is the Lord God!
The only way to know this triune God is by His revelation to us of Himself through His Word. He is unchangeable in His attributes and perfect in all His ways. We don’t learn about Him through philosophy, mystical experiences, or subjective feelings, but only through His written Word, which Moses emphasizes here (v. 1, “commandment, statutes, judgments”; v. 6, “these words”).
We are not only to know this Almighty God, but also we are to love Him (v. 5). Jesus (Matt. 22:37-38) identified loving God as “the great and foremost commandment” in Scripture. It’s not enough to know about God through His Word, although that is foundational (you can’t love a God you don’t know). Also, you must love Him with your total being. This means entering into a personal relationship with God through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But like any relationship, you have to maintain and deepen it by spending time alone with the Lord each day, reading and studying the Bible with the constant prayer, “Lord, help me to know You better through Your Word!” That should be your number one priority. Personally knowing and loving God is the foundation for raising up godly generations after you.
B. To love God fervently, you must walk with Him with reality on the heart level.
Moses says (Deut. 6:5-6), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” The idea of “heart, soul, and might” (Jesus adds “mind,” Matt. 22:37) is total-person love for God. Every area of our being must be consumed with and subservient to this great quest of loving God. A personal relationship with God is essential. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because, although they were very religious and honored God with their lips, their hearts were far from Him (Mark 7:6-8). They kept their religious rituals, but lacked a love relationship with God. If we’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into going through the motions of being Christians outwardly, but all the while, we’re not loving God on the heart level.
Loving God is not just a matter of having warm feelings about Him, although we should feel love for Him. Genuine love for God results in obedience to His Word. As Jesus said (John 14:21), “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (See, also, John 14:23; 15:10, 14; 1 John 5:3.) Genuine Christianity is growing to know God better through His Word and obeying Him more and more, beginning on the heart or thought level, motivated by His great love for us as seen at the cross.
Someone once accused me of being “legalistic.” When I asked why he said that, he replied, “Because you preach obedience.” If preaching obedience is legalism, then Jesus and the entire New Testament is legalistic! Obedience can be legalistic when people obey out of pride to look good before others, while their hearts are far from God. Some Jews, for example, obeyed verses 8 and 9 literally. They took pride in wearing these verses in little boxes strapped to their hands and foreheads, and putting them in boxes by their doors and on their gateposts. But they missed the intent of the passage, which is that God’s Word is to permeate every area of life. The results were ultimately disastrous, because it was the Pharisees, who outwardly kept the law to the letter, who killed their Messiah who preached the need for inward reality with God.
If we say that we know and love God, but don’t obey His commandments, we’re either deceived or lying (1 John 2:3; 5:3). And obedience must begin on the heart level, by judging our sinful thoughts, since all sin begins in our hearts (Mark 7:21-23).
Here’s how this applies to raising our children in the Lord: Religiosity won’t do; you’ve got to be walking with God with reality on the heart level. Kids can smell hypocrisy from a mile away! If you’re often angry and yell at your kids at home, but then put on your “Christian” front when you go to church, your kids will conclude, “If that’s Christianity, I don’t need it!” If your kids see you and your wife angrily yelling at each other and not resolving conflicts in a godly way, but then you go to church and posture yourselves as an exemplary Christian family, your kids conclude that Christianity is just a religious game that doesn’t affect real life.
Or, if you don’t show the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) toward your family, but then lay a bunch of legalistic rules on your kids so that they will look like “good Christians” to the rest of the church, your kids will eventually rebel against you and against the Lord. I’m not saying that you have to be perfect. I am saying that when you lose your temper or do not display the fruit of the Spirit towards your family, you need to confess your sin to them and ask forgiveness. That shows them what a genuine walk with God looks like. They can see that you really walk with God and are seeking to be more conformed to Jesus Christ.
So if you want to teach your children to follow God, you’ve got to love God fervently. His Word must be on your heart. Fight lukewarmness like the plague! Pray constantly that you won’t lose your first love for Jesus Christ. If your kids see you walking in reality with God daily, loving His Word, applying it to your life, and growing in the fruit of the Spirit, your love for God will be infectious. That’s the foundation for raising godly generations.
2. To raise up godly generations, teach your children diligently (Deut. 6:7-9, 20-25).
Deuteronomy 6:7: “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.” “Teach diligently” in Hebrew means literally to sharpen or whet. Your teaching should penetrate your child deeply so that it has an effect on him (the NIV translates it “impress”). You come at it from every angle and in every situation. As mentioned, the Hebrews came to take verses 8 and 9 literally. But the idea rather is making God’s commandments central in your life so that you’re thinking about them all the time. This is an overflow of your own walk with God. If God’s Word is on your heart continually, then you’ll be talking about it constantly with your kids, applying it to real life situations.
Verse 7 assumes that you do, in fact, take the time to sit down in your house to talk with your family (with the TV off!). If you’re so busy as a family that you don’t all sit down to at least one meal a day on a regular basis, you need to change your schedules. At that time, try to read a portion of the Bible and spend a few minutes in prayer. When your children are young, keep it short and use the story parts of the Bible. As they get older, you can venture into more didactic portions, like Romans. Even though we did this for years with our kids, we still had to be diligent to keep at it. The phone invariably rings when we’re reading the Bible. Let it go to voicemail! Be diligent to teach your children!
Men, as the spiritual head of the family, it’s your responsibility to make sure that this happens! Many Christian fathers wrongly think that child rearing is the wife’s task. But most of the biblical commands are aimed at fathers. This also means that if you’re counting on Sunday school to train your children, you’re failing as a father. Sunday school is fine, but it’s no substitute for family times in God’s Word and prayer. Although I didn’t do it, I wish now that I had used a catechism with our kids. John Piper’s website (desiringGod.org) has a helpful one.
“When you walk by the way” implies teaching your kids when you go places together. It may be a trip to the grocery store or a family outing. Those are choice opportunities to talk about how people act and how Christians are to act. You can also point out God’s beauty through His creation. “When you lie down” points to bedtime as a great opportunity to talk with your children about their concerns and pray with them. “When you rise up” implies that mornings are another opportunity to teach your children. Teach them how to start the day off right with the Lord. Again, your example teaches a lot. If your kids are grumpy in the morning, show them and tell them how to begin the day with a cheerful heart, focused on God’s blessings.
Binding God’s commands on your hand (v. 8) means that you should teach your children God’s ways by your actions. Putting them on your forehead means that your thoughts and attitudes should communicate God’s truth. Putting them on the doorposts points to the home as a setting for teaching God’s truths. The gate points to civic or social life as another chance to talk about God. Discuss national and world events with your kids from God’s perspective. Moses is saying that everything you think and do, from home to the business world, should be permeated with God’s Word. Teach your children how the Word applies to every area of their lives as you live in a godly manner before them.
Also, answer your children’s questions about God and the Christian life (Deut. 6:20-25). When your son asks about spiritual things, don’t say, “Go ask your mother!” The fathers were to explain the great deliverance which God brought about for His people. The Old Testament exodus is a picture of God’s redemption at the cross in the New Testament. Dads, you should explain the great truths of salvation to your kids. Don’t respond to your kids’ questions by saying, “That’s just what we believe,” or, “Because I said so!” Your child needs to understand the “why” behind things as he grows older. If you don’t know the answer, admit it and do some research to find the answer.
Also, explain that God’s commands are for our good (Deut. 6:24). God gives many negative commands, but not because He is a heavenly killjoy. He cares for us and wants to bless us. Obedience is the way to experience His blessing. His commands are like the rules of the road. Those rules aren’t to take our fun away; they’re to keep us safe. If you run red lights and drive on the wrong side of the road, eventually you’ll get hurt and hurt others. So the godly father presents God’s truth and His commandments in this wholesome, helpful, explanatory way.
You want your kids to see both from your life and from your teaching that the Bible is a book that applies to every aspect of life. It tells us how to think and act, from the most private to the most public details of our lives. Teach that to your kids and always be open to their questions. To raise up godly generations, love God fervently and teach your children diligently. Finally,
3. To raise up godly generations, live in the world carefully (Deut. 6:10-19).
Moses warns of the spiritual dangers that Israel will face when they settle into Canaan. It’s easy to drift into the ways of the world. These verses reveal two safeguards:
A. Continually watch yourself.
Deuteronomy 6:12: “Watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord.” When times are good, a progression sets in: First, you become satisfied with your comfy life (v. 11); then, you forget the Lord (v. 12); finally, you follow the gods of the people who surround you (v. 14). It’s often easier to trust the Lord during hard times. If we faced the threat of being arrested for gathering as a church, everyone here would be actively trusting in the Lord. But since we currently are free to come to church, you don’t have to trust God to be here. When you’re struggling to make ends meet, you pray a lot. But when you’ve got plenty, you tend to take it for granted. If you’re not careful, you forget the Lord and then it’s easy to worship other gods.
You say, “Wait a minute! We’re Christians! We don’t worship false gods!” I have a coffee cup with a quote from John Calvin: “Man’s nature so to speak is a perpetual factory of idols.” First John (5:21) ends with the terse warning, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” It’s a danger!
What are some of the idols of the peoples who surround us? There’s the idol of affluence. We just had “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” when retailers try to get us to rack up credit card debt because we think we need more stuff to be happy. It’s easy to drift into worshiping the god of affluence rather than managing the resources that God has entrusted to you in light of His kingdom.
What about the idol of self? You follow this idol when you use the true God for the benefits He gives. When things go well, you worship Him. But when hard trials come along, you abandon Him. Israel treated the God this way at Massah (Deut. 6:16; see Exod. 17:1-7). They grumbled because there wasn’t any water. They wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt rather than trust God to provide water. How you handle trials teaches your kids a lot about God! So continually watch yourself so that you don’t drift!
Another idol is sports. Jim Elliff (“When Ball Becomes Baal”) argues that many Christian families have made sports the household god. It controls them. They order their schedules around it. If the kids’ sports teams play on Sunday, the family skips church. After all, the team needs all the players! But what does this teach your kids about priorities? Or, if you spend hours every week watching game after game, but then don’t have time to read your Bible, pray, teach your kids God’s ways, or serve the Lord, maybe sports has become your idol. Watch yourself! It’s easy to forget the Lord and the great salvation He provided (Deut. 6:13)!
B. Constantly focus on pleasing God.
Deuteronomy 6:18: “You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.” Every aspect of life—your thoughts, attitudes, words, deeds, schedule, possessions—must be lived with a view toward pleasing the Lord. Your goal is to teach your kids to please God with all their lives. Ultimately, they have to answer to God. If you only teach them to obey you, then what happens when you’re not around? If you continually examine yourself and constantly focus on pleasing God in light of His Word, you won’t live like the Canaanites. You won’t seek the things they spend their lives going after. Your kids will see the reality of your love for God. They will want to follow Him too.
Bill Glass, an evangelist who counseled with prisoners almost every weekend for 25 years, said that among the thousands of prisoners he had met, not one of them genuinely loved his dad. Ninety-five percent of those on death row hated their fathers (in Dave Simmons, Dad, the Family Counselor [Thomas Nelson], p. 112).
Do solid Christian homes make a difference? In 1900, a man studied the descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, the New England revival preacher, theologian, and president of Princeton University. Statistics vary slightly, but over 100 of his descendants became ministers, missionaries, and theological professors. Thirteen were university presidents; at least 65 were college professors. More than 100 were lawyers and judges. More than 60 were physicians. Eighty-six were state senators, three were state governors, three were U.S. Congressmen, one was the Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury, and one became Vice President of the United States.
We aren’t guaranteed of leaving such an impressive legacy. But we can make an impact for Christ on this world if we raise up godly generations by loving God fervently, teaching our children diligently, and living in the world carefully. If you’ve been negligent, thankfully the Lord allows U-turns! He is “abounding in riches for all who call upon Him” (Rom. 10:12).
- Does Proverbs 22:6 promise for certain that if we raise our children properly they will not go astray? Why/why not?
- What are some ways to guard ourselves from losing our first love for the Lord, or for restoring it if it’s faded (Rev. 2:4-5)?
- Which is more important in child rearing: A parent’s genuine love for God or proper techniques and methods?
- How can a man who feels spiritually inadequate learn to lead his family and train his children in the things of God?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2017, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation