Honour your father and your mother, that you days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
We come to the second table of the commandments with Number 5. Thomas Watson notes that:”
‘The commandments may be likened to Jacobs Ladder: The first table respects God. And is the top of the ladder that reaches to heaven; the second respects superiors and inferiors, and is the foot of the ladder that rests on the earth. By the first table, we walk religiously towards God; by the second, we walk religiously towards man. He cannot be good in the first table that is bad in the second.
As I read this first commandment of the second table I see here a principle – namely that the family is the chief building block of a functioning civilisation. This was surely God’s plan when he made mankind, male and female, and directed them to be ‘fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’ Genesis 1.28 and the importance of it is further emphasised by the promise attached to obedience – long life in the land which God gave.
Over the 2000 years since this command was given the place of the family has undoubtedly waxed and waned as this quote from Socrates circa 470 BC reveals:
“Children; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room, they contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers. Children are now tyrants.”
So this is nothing new but it is arguable that in the 21st Century, particularly in the west, it is at an all-time low. Family breakdown is common; the ‘me’ culture creates selfishness and the very fabric of society is torn.
Sadly this is not surprising for as we have departed from God’s blueprint so the proper functioning of society is not possible. The Commandment before us this morning puts the onus on children to honour parents but it is a two-way traffic as Paul writes the following in Colossians 3.20-21.
‘Children obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.’
Even a cursory look at society today tells us that this word is widely ignored. What can be done?
There are two responses to this situation and the challenges it represents.
We can shrug our shoulders and do nothing, or we can ‘watch and pray’!
Clearly the first is a non-starter for those who know God so:
Watch and Pray!
Pray that those in government will acknowledge the centrality of the family, the role of parents and stop tinkering with legislation that approves that of which God disapproves.
Pray for parents in their key role, a role that modern western society makes more and more difficult as it moves further and further away from God’s blueprint.
Pray for children and young people and for more and more Christians willing and ready to share the good news of Jesus with the 95% (Scripture Union) who have no connection with any church or Christian organisation.
Pray for our schools and for Christian teachers in those schools which can often be alien to the gospel.
Pray that as God’s people we might demonstrate in our lives the perfection, beauty and efficacy of the Ten Commandments.