TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO FEAR THE LORD
1. This is a day when something deeply human but crucially spiritual happens.
a. When Moses is confronted with the imminence of his own mortality, his concern that succeeding generations be taught to fear the Lord grows quite urgent.
b. “I must die in this land,” he says, “but you shall go over and take possession of that good land” (v. 22).
c. In view of that reality, he implores his people to attend to what may be the most important work of all.....(v. 9-10).
2. The force of these words is even more apparent when we think of their setting in this book.
a. Deuteronomy is a series of three speeches Moses makes to the people who have survived the wilderness wandering and are ready to take possession of the land of promise.
b. They’re at the Jordan, and he won’t be going across the river with them, but his faith must! So, having prepared Joshua for the task of leadership, he now seeks to prepare the people for the task of faithfulness to their covenant with God.
c. Chapter 4 is his first exhortation in his first discourse, and it focuses on how essential to this task of faithfulness their teaching their children to fear the Lord will be.
3. Teaching our children to fear the Lord is still our first mission, the concern of every parent and grandparent, and one of the most important things the church can help to do.
1. What it means to fear the Lord.
a. The fear of the Lord is awe mingled with love which becomes a desire to please him. You can trace the thought through this chapter.
i. Where he speaks, it listens and does (v. 1).
ii. When he enters into relationship, it holds fast (v. 9).
iii. When he is known, it devotes all the heart, soul, mind, and strength to him (v. 39). This is a point made about a dozen times in Deuteronomy.
b. The fear of the Lord is the mind-set appropriate to who God is. It is instructive to note what Moses says about God in a chapter about learning to fear him.
i. “The LORD is God; there is no other besides him” (v. 35).
(1) He isn’t like any man or woman, or any animal or bird or creeping thing or fish, or any planet or star, and he won’t be.
(2) Only because he is God did he love the fathers and choose their offspring and let them hear him from heaven and enjoy him on earth (v. 36-38).
ii. “The LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (v. 24).
(1) One of the Study Bibles notes that “this is in fact the language of love” (ESV S.B. 338). God maintains his right for the unqualified allegiance of his own people.
(2) It is outside of reality to think you can be in covenant relationship with the only God and it not exclusive.
(3) The New Testament makes this point also (Heb. 12:29).
iii. “The LORD your God is a merciful God” (v. 31).
(1) He is full of compassion for those who feel like a scattered few in the presence of many troubles.
(2) He will be found by those who search after him with all their heart and all their soul (v. 29).
(3) Maybe you can see why “awe mingled with love that becomes a desire to please him” is the right response to him!
c. The fear of the Lord, when it has been learned, becomes the organizing principle of life.
i. When it is the thing that matters above all else, when it is the light in which everything else is seen, the fear of the Lord becomes the touch-stone of life: attitudes, words, behaviors, values, and relationships all then take their shape from it.
ii. When children learn it, they are equipped with a reliable conscience and a healthy motivation: they are ready to live and to be a blessing.
iii. That’s what this chapter is interested in: “...that it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land...” (v. 40).
2. How one learns to fear the Lord. The fear of the LORD is not the natural world-view for those who live in the flesh; it must be taught and learned by human beings as they grow. The question is how. And that, I think, is where this chapter may have its most lasting value.
a. The attitude in the home and in the community must be dominated by wonder and gratitude at what we are being given, rather than by an insistence on what we “have coming.”
i. Have you noticed that this is more and more of a challenge?
ii. Moses starts with a reference to what God “is giving you” (v. 1), and he ends by pointing out that it is not because they are greater or mightier than others that he gives (v. 38).
iii. A mixture of joy and responsibility surely must result from the recognition that we have simply been blessed!
b. There must be a culture in which the Lord’s words are taken into open hearts which respect them and intend to do them.
i. There is no way to fear the Lord while feeling free to add to or to take away from his word (v. 2)! When he first spoke them to Israel “while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven,” they certainly were not taken for granted (v. 11)!
ii. His guidance has to be seen as just as necessary to life as bread is (v. 1).
iii. Keeping his words and doing them should be thought of as wisdom and understanding (v. 6), not as a hindrance.
c. The generation now present must be putting a priority on taking care and keeping its own soul diligently (v. 9).
i. We cannot insist that our children do what we are not, nor that they remember what we have forgotten!
ii. Actually retelling the story, actually teaching our children, is an essential part of the process by which we ourselves remember and keep our souls: what we need most will depart from our hearts unless we take up this task.
iii. Our hearts have to keep what our eyes have seen of the love and faithfulness of God, and what we have seen of the real spiritual commitment in faithful servants of his.
d. If the fear of the Lord is to be taught and learned, the Lord’s deeds must be remembered has having produced “a people of his own inheritance” (v. 20).
i. The fear of the Lord is learned in the context of “peoplehood;” the individual understands himself in a corporate setting.
ii. Selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-absorption is the condition of the natural man. Learning the fear of the Lord involves turning from that to a sense of community, to an identity shared with a people, to an interest in the well-being of the whole.
iii. The priceless quality our chapter is discussing is taught and learned in the setting of the congregation.
e. That people must be engaged in an increasing recognition of, and a deepening appreciation for, the connection between grace and commitment.
i. Our chapter emphasizes this by its focus on God’s covenant: the relationship he graciously extended to the people in which he obligated himself to their well-being, and in which they promised their loyalty to him (v. 13, 23, 31).
ii. No one else had such a blessing as having the Lord God so near (v. 7)!
iii. The fear of the Lord will not be learned unless such a privilege results in that people “taking care” (v. 9, 23) and “watching themselves very carefully” (v. 15) so that commitment to the amazing grace of God lives, not forgetting and corruption.
1. When our own mortality begins to dawn on us, what will matter most is whether we have taught our children to fear the Lord.
a. That is the task we should dedicate ourselves to now.
b. It will do far more good than bemoaning “what things are coming to” in the world these days.
2. Proverbs 14:26-27; 16:6