Today we will be looking at the topic of the fifth commandment about honoring one’s father and mother, and how a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best kingdom guidance and direction leading to well-being for the children who are obedient to their instruction.
Exodus 20:12 – Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.
As God conveyed his Torah, or instruction to Moses, he made it clear that within the kingdom of God, there would be many roles requiring to be fulfilled. While most people today look to define and embrace roles like prophets, priests, teachers, helpers, there are no roles as basic and impactful as the roles within each family: husband and wife, mother and father.
In today’s culture this has become a controversial stance, but I firmly believe that the significance of man and woman in the kingdom is a basic building block upon which everything else is built. The male and female component is inherent within the DNA of the kingdom, right back to its origins in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 1:27-28 – So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
The very first royal edict of the kingdom had to do with man and woman reigning and having dominion over God’s Creation. So, in Hebrew culture, the father and the mother are therefore figures representing divine authority over the family. They are the representatives of God’s authority because they have been made in his image, and to be respected as possessing and implementing the wisdom of God. In fact, the genealogies that take up roughly 5% of the Bible are based on a deference to authority in the sense of familial descent which is only possible through the recording of historical male-female heritage. This honoring of one’s parents or ancestry also spilled over into the ancient Hebraic view of the afterlife. Upon death, one was considered to be “gathered unto the fathers.”
Genesis 49:29 – Then [Jacob] commanded [his sons] and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite…
Judges 2:8, 10 – And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Yahweh, died at the age of 110 years. … And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers…
2 Kings 22:20 – Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace…
Within the conduct of individuals during this life, however, we can see how this understanding of paternal and maternal influence along with marital fidelity carried over into metaphors of God’s care for his people, as well.
Exodus 4:21-22 – And Yahweh told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh says: Israel is my firstborn son.
Isaiah 43:3, 6 – For I am Yahweh, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. … I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth.
Isaiah 46:3 – “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born.
Jeremiah 3:20 – But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. I, Yahweh, have spoken.”
Individual references cannot convey the depth with which the entire narrative of the Bible is imbued with this type of familial imagery; it is interwoven throughout every page. That parents were to be respected is brought out in the biblical stories conveyed throughout the Tanakh or Old Testament, but is most prominently evident in the Proverbs.
Proverbs 1:8-9 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are a garland of grace on your head and a pendant around your neck.
Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.
Proverbs 15:20 – Sensible children bring joy to their father; foolish children despise their mother.
However, children who are disobedient to this most basic sense of authority are also shown the end that results from choosing their own way.
Proverbs 19:26 – Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace.
Proverbs 20:20 – If you insult your father or mother, your light will be snuffed out in total darkness.
Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.
Proverbs 30:17 – The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be plucked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.
In these passages this sense of structural authority within the family unit provides a powerful basis for wisdom and right actions. It is here that the roots of the kingdom are set deep into the soil so that each generation can continue to rise to the greatest heights in a demonstration of God’s power and glory over his Creation.
In a moment, we will see how this principle of parental authority is also built on by Yeshua and the apostles within the writings of the New Testament.
The God-given authority of the father and mother was an ongoing kingdom principle for the early Messiah believers, also. Before we look at the apostolic writings, though, we can see this principle exemplified most clearly by Messiah himself.
Luke 2:41-51 – Every year Yeshua’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Yeshua was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Yeshua stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant. Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.
This wonderful passage gives us a rare glimpse into the childhood of Yeshua, and how he viewed his own role in relation to his parents. The typical evaluation of this passage explains how at such an early age, Yeshua understood the uniqueness of his role and how he recognized Yahweh God as his father. Yet, the nugget in the story for our purposes today is that final verse that says, “he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” To me, this speaks volumes on Yeshua’s recognition of the established order of parental authority. Even though he was spiritually maturing at an accelerated pace, he chose to remain obedient to his parents in conformity with the overall plan of God’s kingdom. He honored his mother and his father.
He also taught this as an adult as he reiterated the validity of the Ten Commandments. When answering questions from an inquirer about eternal life, Yeshua responded with the necessity of recognizing the authority of the torah, or instruction of God.
Matthew 19:16-19 – Someone came to Yeshua with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “Why ask me about what is good?” Yeshua replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question–if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked. And Yeshua replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Yeshua firmly taught the Ten Commandments as a basis for the kingdom, sometimes used as a synonymous phrase for the principle of eternal life.
Moving to the writings of Yeshua’s apostles, we can see how they continued to emphasize the role of parental authority within the early believing congregations.
Colossians 3:20 – Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases Yahweh.
One of the characteristics required of leaders within the congregation was to be exemplifying this authoritative structure within one’s own family.
1 Timothy 3:1, 4-5 – This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” … He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s congregation?
In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy in a basic and underlying premise of the kingdom: authority rests within the parental structure. If that structure is not present in the family, Paul argues, then how can it be present within the congregation? Besides a recitation of the Ten Commandments, to my way of thinking this is one of the most precise indications of the necessity for parental authority for the success of the kingdom in the entire New Testament.
Additionally, just like in the writings of the prophets in the Tanakh, the metaphors for God’s parental authority are present within the apostolic writings, as well.
Hebrews 12:7-8 – As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.
1 Peter 1:14 – So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.
1 John 2:29 – Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.
And finally, Paul writes to the Ephesian congregation about the promise of faithful obedience to parental authority.
Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents because you belong to Yahweh, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”
Paul writes here that this commandment to honor father and mother is the first command that is not only the right thing to do, but it carries within it a promise for well-being and long life. The idea is that a believing father and mother, as God’s agents, can provide the best guidance and direction that would lead to those things for the children who are obedient to their instruction.
In conclusion, we can see how the respect and honor of father and mother is therefore part of the eternal torah, or instruction, of God for all time. As the mother and father “rule” righteously over the kingdom of their family, they are fulfilling a role that is embedded within the Creation itself, a role that hearkens back through ancestral lines all the way to the original parents in the Garden. The Garden imagery of Paradise (the idealized kingdom) is therefore brought to life for each generation through every faithful father and mother. As believing parents recognize this awesome responsibility of the authority they carry, the Kingdom of God can continue to grow in righteousness, honoring the original parents whom God set over all Creation in the beginning.
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