Fifteenth Day – Parental Instruction

`This is the commandment which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all His commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.’ Deut. 6: 1, 2, 5-7.

‘Thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son,’ with these words in the second verse, Moses gave expression to the thought that God’s purpose in giving His commandments to His people was not limited to the individual or to a single generation, but had in view the people, through its whole existence. This purpose of God’s has therefore to be the law of individual duty: each one who received the commandments of God was to strive not only to keep them himself, but to hold himself responsible for their maintenance among his children. `These are the commandments which the Lord commanded to teach you, that thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son,’ In the following verses (5, 7) this idea is brought forward more prominently and enlarged upon. In verses 20 and 21 the duty is afresh inculcated of expounding to the children the ground of that wondrous relation in which God’s people stood to Him, and by virtue of which they had been favored with the Divine Law, even the mercy and faithfulness of God that had redeemed them from the land of Egypt. All concentrating in the one important and blessed truth, that the fear and faith of God must be seen in family religion, as domestic piety. The grand means for maintaining and extending the fear of God among His people are the faithful performance of parental duty, in harmony with His purpose that His service and blessing should descend from son to son. The special aspect in which God’s will is here set before us, is parental instruction, and we are taught in the words we meditate on, how hearty, how diligent, how unceasing this ought to be.

Parental instruction must be from the heart. We all know how little influence commands or instructions exercise, when given by a listless or uninterested teacher. It is only the heart that gains the heart, the loving warmth of interest and affection that can waken corresponding emotions in the bosom of the pupil. God would secure all the influence of parental love to gain access for His words and will to the youthful and susceptible hearts of the children of His people. He therefore says, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and these words shall be in thy heart: and thou shalt teach them to thy children.’ How easy and how blessed the work, so often sighed over, if not neglected, to those who listen to God’s guidance. As is thy duty and thy blessedness, love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. If thou lovest Him, love His words too; let them live in thy heart, let them have a place in thy affections. And, the heart filled with God’s love and God’s words, how easy to have them in thy mouth too, and to teach them to thy children. Let holy love to God and His words mingle with all thy fond and tender love to thy little ones; and it will be a sweet and happy work to win the beloved on earth, to the Father beloved in heaven. As often as the work of instructing the children upon earth threatens to become a burden or a weariness, you may be sure it is a token of something wrong within: the love to God in heaven, or the delight in His word, has been fading. As often as you seek for fresh vigor to perform thy work hopefully and joyfully, you have but to turn to the words, that reveal the secret of a godly education, and you will experience that, as for your children so for yourself, there is an unspeakable blessing in the wisdom that has so inseparably connected the heart’s secret love with the mouth’s spoken words: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. And these words shall be in thy heart. And thou shalt teach them to thy children.’ Oh! that we might remember that this is the Divinely appointed ministry and means for the salvation of our children — parental love elevated and strengthened by the love of God, guided and inspired by His own Holy Word.

The parental instruction must likewise be diligent and earnest: `Thou shalt diligently teach them unto thy children,’ or, as it reads in the original, ‘Thou shalt sharpen them unto thy children.’ The word is used of the sharpening of weapons, as arrows and spears, to make them penetrate deep. It must be no cold declaration of His will that we communicate, no mere intellectual knowledge. It profits little that the dart be cast or the arrow shot from the bow, unless they have been sharpened — to pierce the heart of the enemy. And so the godly parent must use diligence to consider how he can best find access to the heart for the words that he speaks. He does this by carefully considering how he can best gain both the child’s understanding and affections: by seeking to avail himself of the best opportunities for securing his interest; by studying the art of speaking in the spirit of love, and not without the preparation of prayer. He does it by striving to make his whole life an attractive example of what he has taught, because there is nothing that does so drive home the word of instruction that has touched the heart, as the confirmation of a consistent and holy life. Above all, he seeks to do it by waiting for that Holy Spirit who alone can make the word sharp as a two-edged sword, but with whose aid he may experience how true it is: `The words of the wise are as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which only are given from one shepherd.’ God’s promise is sure: from earnest, painstaking, and prayerful effort the blessing of the Spirit will not be withheld.

And to this end the parental instruction must be persevering and continuous. ‘Thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and thou shalt talk of them, when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.’ The entrance of Divine truth into the mind and heart, the formation of habit and the training of character, these are not attained by sudden and isolated efforts, but by regular and unceasing repetition. This is the law of all growth in nature, and of this law God seeks to make use in the kingdom of grace, in dependence upon and subservient to the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the principle that is so beautifully applied by Moses to parental duty. The instruction he had enjoined was not to be by means of set times, and stated formal lectures; the whole life with all its duties has to be interwoven with the lessons of God’s presence and God’s service. With a heart full of God’s love and God’s word, the ordinary avocations of daily life were to be no hindrance, but helps to lead the youthful hearts heavenwards. The children were to feel that it was no matter that could be done for the day, in the moments of morning or evening prayer; the continued and spontaneous outburstings of the heart in the language of the lips was to prove that it was a life and a joy, that God’s presence and love were a reality and a delight. Sitting in the home, or walking by the way — now in quiet rest, then in the labors and duties of the way — now with the Bible of God’s grace, and then with the books of God’s glory in nature — home retirement and wayside intercourse were equally to afford opportunity and material for recognizing the goodness and rejoicing in the service of the ever-present One. Lying down and rising up — from early morning and its freshness to evening weariness and its repose — the whole of the day and the whole of life was to be the occasion of an uninterrupted fellowship with the Holy One, and of the pointing of the little ones to the unseen and ever near Father in heaven. And lest the objection should be made that all the speaking would but weary and estrange: an objection often made with terrible truth against mere speaking in religion, while heart and life deny it; an objection that is as often, alas! the excuse for a heart that knows no fervent love: lest this objection should be made, we point once more to what is the source and center and secret of all: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart. And the words shall be in thy heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.’ Such a wholehearted love and such a loving piety! Ah, how would it receive wisdom from on high, and be guided by Divine love to know when and how to speak: how it would influence children’s hearts with the flame of its own zeal, and find a willing and a loving ear when others could only weary! And how surely it would.