Sweet Promises of Blessing, Terrible Threats of Judgment

When it comes to the relationship of children to their parents, the Bible holds out sweet promises of blessing but also terrible threats of judgment

What happens to those who heed nature, law, and gospel to honor their parents? God blesses them: “…that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” God’s blessing for those who obey the fifth commandment takes shape in two forms: a long life and a good life. These blessings are both a motive to obey and a natural consequence of such obedience.

 

Last week I told you why I believe the fifth commandment—honor your father and mother—is The Commandment We Forgot. The response was overwhelming and proves to me what I suspected—many people have serious questions and concerns about this commandment. We are comfortable with its implications for children, but perplexed when it comes to the implications for adults. How do we, as adults, show honor to our parents? What are our continuing obligations? What about parents who are difficult, absent, abusive, or even dead? What are the limitations on this commandment? These are great questions and as we go we will attempt to come to satisfying conclusions.

Today we want to explore the benefits God promises to those who obey his commandment. Yet this means we also need to take a hard look at the ugly consequences he promises to those who disobey. When it comes to the relationship of children to their parents, the Bible holds out sweet promises of blessing but also terrible threats of judgment.

A Commandment With Promise

The Ten Commandments play a crucial role in our world: They teach human beings how to live in the way God means for us to live. The God who created us reveals his law to direct us to the fullest, most satisfying lives. These commandments tell rebellious and disordered people how to live in submission and order. The fifth commandment, then, speaks to people prone to rebel against authority—all of us, that is—and says, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

Did you notice that God attaches blessings to this commandment? Writing centuries later, the Apostle Paul is sure to point these out when he addresses the young children in the congregation at Ephesus. He says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Packed into these two sentences are three reasons children must honor their parents as well as two great promises to those who do so.

Why should children honor their parents?

  • First, because nature demands it. Paul says simply, “this is right.” This is the way God has created humanity, so that children honor their parents. All humans in all of time have this knowledge and this expectation.
  • Second, because God’s law demands it. Paul quotes the fifth commandment to show that God demands honor as an important part of his revealed will for humanity.
  • Third, because the gospel demands it. Paul tells children to obey their parents “in the Lord.” Those who have put their faith in the Lord are called to follow him in everything. The gospel assures children they can joyfully honor their parents and the gospel gives them the motivation to actually do so.

What happens to those who heed nature, law, and gospel to honor their parents? God blesses them: “…that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” God’s blessing for those who obey the fifth commandment takes shape in two forms: a long life and a good life. These blessings are both a motive to obey and a natural consequence of such obedience.

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