Let’s turn in our Bibles to Exodus 20. If you’re visiting with us, we’ve been studying the 10 commandments and their application to our lives today. This morning we move into the second section of the 10 commandments. You can divide them into 2 sections. The first 4 commandments that we’ve studied are duties toward God. They are expressions of love for God. No other gods besides Him. No images to represent Him. Careful with His name. Observe His day. The remaining 6 commandments that we’re going to get into this morning have to do with our relationships with other people in particular. They are duties toward our fellow man, expressions of love for our neighbor. But of course that’s not to say that they have nothing to do with our relationship with God. Because you remember Jesus taught the Jews of his day, “If you’re presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” In other words don’t bother to worship God and pursue a relationship with Him unless you are doing what’s right in your relationships with other people.
I’d like us to look at the first 2 commandments regarding our responsibilities toward other people.
So first this morning let’s think about what our Creator and Savior and Judge is saying to us in the 5th commandment in Exodus 20:12. When it comes to our responsibilities toward others here is something fundamental and primary.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”
The word for honor in the Hebrew text literally means to attach weight to or to make heavy. It refers to attaching a heavy importance to someone, treating them as having a great weight of value and significance; as opposed to treating them lightly, like they’re unimportant, like they don’t matter. Do you treat your parents as VIPs, as very important people? That’s what it means.
How do you do that? Let’s let the Scriptures answer that for us. We’ll start with what probably first comes to our minds when we hear this commandment, the way we honor our parents when we’re in that stage of life where we are under their roof, where we are dependants on them. Ephesians 6:1-2, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Then he quotes the 5th commandment as it’s written in Deuteronomy. The expression “in the Lord” there does not refer to the parents. He is not saying obey your parents if they’re in the Lord, if they’re Christians. The expression “in the Lord” modifies the command “obey”. The sense of it is, “Children, this is what you do in a relationship with the Lord, you obey your parents.” If you’re a Christian kid, if you’re a young person that is following Christ, you obey your parents. To be disobedient to parents is outside of the Lord. If you’re going to be in the Lord, a member of His body, a follower of Jesus, you obey.
Luke 2:51-52 provide us with about all the insight that we have into the adolescent years of Jesus’ life. Those verses pick up after the story of when Jesus was 12 years old and his family accidently left him behind in the big city Jerusalem. And they found Him finally 3 days later in the temple, sitting among the rabbis listening to their teaching and discussing the Scriptures with them and amazing everybody at His understanding of God and His word and His will at such a young age. Right after that story at Luke 2:51 it says, “And He [Jesus] went down with them [his parents] and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them…” Don’t you think if there was ever a kid who did not need the guidance and rules of a parent it was Jesus? At 12 years old He amazed people with His understanding of God and right and wrong. He was an unusally wise 12 year old and teenager. Yet He subjected Himself to His parents. Meaning He put their will over His own. Whenever there was a conflict of wills He conducted Himself according to theirs. Not because they knew better, but because He knew that’s what’s right for kids to do in the sight of God. So when Mary hollered from down the street “Jesus ,come in. It’s time for supper.” He wasn’t like the kid whose friend says, “You better go now. Your mom is calling you.” And he says, “Oh, I don’t have to go in just yet. She has only called me three times.” Mary and Joseph only had to tell Jesus one time to do things and whatever it was, as long as it wasn’t a violation of God’s commands, He would do it. “Clean your room.” “Yes ma’am.” “Do the dishes.” “Yes sir.” “Be home by 8.” “You got it.” And when He said, “Mom, Dad, I’m going to John’s house,” John’s house was not just the stopping off place to going to some other place His parents wouldn’t want Him to go. He subjected Himself to them. He conducted Himself according to their will. And that’s what you do if you’re following Jesus under your parents roof.
To honor also involves showing respect. Let’s notice a couple verses in Leviticus 19. Leviticus 19:3, “Everyone of you shall reverence [or show respect to] his mother and his father…” Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged…” Like in the courtroom when the judge walks in and all rise. Or in the Whitehouse when the president walks in a room and all rise. It’s an expression of respect. And that’s honoring the person. Not that we must always rise when our parents walk in the room, but it’s just to show that expressions of respect are how we honor someone. So in our culture honoring your parents means you look them in the eyes when they talk to you, because this isn’t China, in our culture that’s respectful. It means you don’t tell them what to do. When you’re on phone with them, asking for a ride home from some place, you don’t treat them as though they are some cab driver who should be glad for your business. You ask them. And you say “Thank you” expressing that you don’t see them as owing it to you. I really don’t think God is in favor of the trendy thing now among kids to not call their parent’s mom and dad but their first name. So you call their house and they answer and you ask to speak to a parent, instead of hearing them on the other end of the phone shouting “mom” or “dad,” they shout “Bob” or “Sharon” or whatever it is. It’s trendy. But it’s just treating them like there a friend or classmate. It’s not showing respect.
Let me read to you the interpretation of honoring and respecting your parents from the ancient Jewish Rabbis. This is found in the Jewish Talmud. “In what does reverence for a father consist and in what does honor for him consist? Reverence means that the son must neither stand nor sit in his father’s place, not contradict his words, nor judge him harshly. Honor consists of providing parents with food and drink and clothing and covering them, and in aiding them to enter and to leave the house.” Rabbi Eliezer said, “Even if his father orders him to throw a purse of gold into the sea, he should obey him.” Obedience, showing respect…
And then also that part about taking care of them, providing food, drink, clothing, assisting them in and out of the house, is an oft repeated way of honoring our parents in the Bible. Let’s turn over to Mark ch7 and look at something Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees. Mark 7:9-13, “He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 “For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” So one thing to notice there, the 5th commandment is not just a kid verse. It’s a people verse. We never grow out of the responsibility to honor our parents. We just honor them in different ways in different stages of life. And we see here that when we’re adults honoring our parents means taking care of them if they happen to be in any need that we can provide. But the Scribes and Pharisees had found a way around it they thought. They said you could declare your extra resources as Corban, which was a Hebrew word that meant offering or gift. If they said something is Corban that meant it was given to God, it was divine property. But apparently that didn’t mean that they went down to the temple and gave it to the priests right away. They still held on to their possessions for awhile and used them for themselves. Maybe the deal was that eventually their stuff would go to God, like when they died it would be transferred over to the priests. But until then they used it for themselves. They thought they found a way to get out of having to give to anyone, even to their own parents if they became in need. It was setting aside God’s commandment to honor your parents.
I Timothy 5:4, “If any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.” So when the tables are turned from what they were in our childhood, when our parents are the ones in need of support and care like we used to be, we have to return the favor. They took care of us, in their declining years it’s our turn to take care of them.
And I know there are difficulties here. There are deep questions to work out. I know that some of you have wrestled with the question, “Should mom or dad go to a nursing home?” It’s not for me to tell you what you should have done in that circumstance. I’m not saying that you can’t use professional help. But I think I can say with a word from God that we need to treat our declining parents like we’re going to want to be treated when we’re at that last stage of life. We must not neglect what’s best for them because it might interrupt our life, it might interfere with the way we like things at our house or interfere with our career goals or our hobbies. When you were about to come into this world, probably your mother did not look down at her big tummy and think, “I hope that nothing changes in my life. I hope that this doesn’t interrupt my schedule or take much of my time or money.” How long did you interrupt your parent’s life? How much time and energy and money and how much of their lives have they given for you? It comes out to an enormous debt for me that I owe my parents.
I read a little parable story about a young couple with a 6 year little boy. And the husband’s father was declining and had to come live with them. The young wife didn’t like the idea, but agreed to do it for her husband’s sake. She told the old man, “We eat at such-and-such a time. If you want to eat, you’d better be at the table when the meal is served.” At first the old man came right on time. But eventually he came late, and to teach him a lesson, the young wife had the old man eat in a corner by himself. More time passed and the old man began having trouble with his food. He couldn’t seem to properly handle a knife and fork. And he’d get food on himself and on the floor. After enduring the situation as long as she could in exasperation, the young wife went out and bought a feeding trough, the kind you use to feed pigs, and she set it down in front of the old man and said, “If you are going to eat like a pig, you’re going to have a trough like a pig.” A couple days later they couldn’t find their 6 year old son. Then they heard this banging sound coming from the shed behind the house. The wife walked out there and opened the shed door, and there was the boy busy nailing boards together. And she asked, “Son, what are you doing?” He said, “Oh, I’m making you a trough for when you grow old.” Well, our kids will likely learn how to treat us by watching how we treat grandma and grandpa.
I Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” He’s saying it is a folly to say that I’m devoted to Christ if you’re not devoted to your family.
Jesus not only honored His parents in boyhood, but you remember John 19? Nailed to a cross, stripped nearly naked, bleeding, mutilated beyond recognition, struggling to breathe, suffering, He looked down and saw His widowed mother and His beloved disciple John. And in a moment of awareness with almost His dying breaths He made provision for the care of His mother. In that awful agony He pushed Himself up on the nails to get a breath to say to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son,” referring her to John. And then He pushed Himself up again to get another breath to say to John, “Behold, your mother.” And it says from that time on John took her into his own household.
Now, maybe there’s somebody here who’s thinking, “This is all fine and good if you have honorable parents. But I didn’t grow up in a ‘Leave it Beaver’ sort of family.” Maybe you were abused or neglected as a child. Maybe you had alcoholic parent. Maybe you have stories of horrible parenting by your mom or dad. I can’t speak to you as one who has had to deal with that. So I can only imagine how difficult it must be. But I do believe that even if your parents are not honorable, God’s command to you is still the same. He still wants you to honor them despite how they may have treated you. There’s no fine print, not footnotes, no exception clauses attached to the fifth commandment. It’s not honor your father and mother if they deserve honor. Jesus taught us even, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Paul said at the end of Romans 12, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” You might feel that by honoring your parent you are excusing their behavior. But you’re not. You’re leaving it to God to take care of all the judgment and justice that needs to be done. You’re keeping the commands of God. And you may heap those burning coals of shame on their heads over how they’ve treated you. You may change their hearts by loving and honoring them. That’s how God has changed our hearts. Despite how we’ve treating Him, He’s loved us, sent His Son for us. And He’s called us to try to change people’s hearts in the same way; to overcome evil with good.
And let me just say something about the promise that’s attached to the 5th commandment, Exodus 20:12. Do this “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” I used to take that to mean that if you do this, you’ll live a longer, which is generally a true principle. If you honor your parents and listen to their advice it will keep you from a lot of self-destructive behaviors, so you’ll probably live longer. But I don’t think that’s the promise here. It was a promise God made to the nation of Israel. And the land which the LORD their God was giving them, was the land of Canaan. When He says do this that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you, I think it’s a promise saying that the nation’s security and longevity in the land of Canaan hinges on their obedience to this commandment. If they become a nation that dishonors their parents, God will drive them out of the land of Canaan. It’s a promise intended to convey how serious God’s takes this 5th commandment. He is not kidding when He says “Honor your parents”. Honor them if you want God to let you stay in the promised land. It’s a matter of utmost importance to God how we treat our moms and dads.
Now, let’s talk briefly about commandment #6. It’s 4 words in our English versions. It’s just 2 words in Hebrew text. In the Hebrew text it’s just…
It does not refer to any and all kinds of killing. The context of the book of Exodus makes that clear.
- It does not refer to killing animals. God commands them to kill animals for sacrifice in Exodus. And shortly before this occasion He sent them quail for supper. Killing animals in not in view here.
- It also does not refer to capital punishment. If you’re in Exodus 20 where the 10 commandments are given and look across the page if you’re Bible is like mine at Exodus 21:12, beginning there are you read a list of several crimes that called for the death penalty. And God commands the nation to enforce the death penalty for these crimes. So capital punishment is not in view in the 6th commandment.
- Also it’s not talking about killing someone out of self-defense or defense of others. Exodus 22:2-3a, “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. 3 “But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account.” A man was not to be regarded as guilty of murder for killing a thief that was breaking into his house. It’s not murder to protect yourself and your family. But it says” if the sun has risen on him there will be bloodguiltiness on his account.” What’s that mean? I think it means if the man who was robbed kills the thief at a later time; the thief robbed him at night, but it wasn’t until morning that he went after the thief and killed him. So if the killing is not out of self-defense or defending others, but just out of revenge or just to get his stuff back, then he’s guilty of murder.
- But also this commandment does not refer to killing in justifiable warfare. God is going to bring the nation of Israel into the land of Canaan to do a lot of killing, because of the sinfulness of the inhabitants of that land.
This commandment is about intentionally killing another human being out of malice toward that person. And we understand that that is killing of a whole different nature.
Now, probably most of you are thinking, “Yeah, we got this one. Don’t really have a problem with murdering people. We all know that’s a big no-no and we don’t plan on ever doing that. So why don’t you just wrap it up so we can go to lunch?” But I can’t just do that yet, because the NT tells us that you don’t actually have to take the physical life of another person in order to be a murderer in the sight of God.
Do you remember the principle that Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount about adultery? He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In other words you don’t have to actually be with another woman that’s not your wife sexually to commit adultery. The NT tells us the same is true about murder. Just before that in the sermon on the mount, at Matthew 5:21 Jesus said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” If you hold anger, malice, bitterness in your heart toward your brother, if you’re one who tries to tear him down and belittle him with your words, you’re just as unacceptable before God as if you were to actually kill him.
Let’s look at I John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Now, I don’t think John means that if you hold a grudge against a brother you are actually going to rise up and physically kill him. There are lots of people who have hated their brother and not killed him. But he’s saying that the heart that takes a life and the heart that hates a life are viewed as one and the same to God. Any murderers here?… I used to be one in heart. Do you wish some other person was gone? Is there a person that you want nothing good for? Is there a person that if the circumstances were right, if they were about to eat something poisonous that they didn’t know was poisonous and would kill them, and nobody would know, if you could get away with it, you might just let them eat it? God knows our hearts. If we’re hostile to another person at heart we’re murderers in His sight. And John says you know that no murderer has eternal life.
With that in view I think we could reword the 6th commandment in the positive form with the words of Colossians 3:13, “You shall forgive each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
– James Williams