The Command with a Promise
Saturday, January 16, 2010


Exodus 20:12  "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”  

        The 5th Commandment has been called the command with a promise.  The command is to honor your father and mother.  The promise is that you may live long in the land.  This truly is a multi-dimensional command.  It speaks of honoring our earthly parents when we are young, it speaks of honoring them when we are old, and it speaks of honoring God all the days of our lives.  And when that happens, the promise is that corporately the people will build a culture whose foundation is respect for authority and upon respect for authority the foundations are strong and powerful.  And when our foundations are solid, we will live long in our land.  So let’s examine the dimensions of the command that we might shore up our foundations and preserve our land. 

         First of all, the command is to young people to honor their mothers and fathers.  God has so designed us to learn as we grow older.  Each experience we have teaches us and hopefully we build on the good lessons and turn from the harmful lessons.  And each lesson, both positive and negative, increases our knowledge and hopefully our wisdom.  And that process lasts a lifetime.  Children have fewer lessons on which to build their lives, so they must lean upon the lessons learned by the parents.  Therefore in one sense the commandment is to admonish young people to build upon the lessons learned by their parents.  Paul said that when this is not happening, it is a sign that the end is near.  Isn’t it prophetic that in our time, parents are afraid of their children?  And our foundations as a culture are rapidly deteriorating. 

         Second, the command is about honoring our parents all the days of our lives.  This is a confusing command for those who have been abandoned, abused, and shunned by their parents.  How can they be asked to honor a deadbeat dad, an alcoholic mother, an abusive parent, or self centered parents who look to their own welfare without regard for the children?    Yet if God commanded it, there must be an underlying purpose or purposes.  One of those is that if parents give us nothing else, they gave us life.  They provided the gene pool for which God molded and shaped us.  And without life, we would never be privileged to share eternal life with the King of Creation in everlasting bliss.  But even the worst of parents give more.  They give the framework in which God has chosen to bring us into the world.  They provide the context of our life of which God is not unaware.  There are lessons to be learned by us from our parents and God knows that unless we honor them, those lessons will be lacking.  We are not commanded to sin like our parents, to justify their wrongs, or to even like them, but we are called to honor them for the life they have given. 

         Third, and really the most important dimension of the command is that parents to a child are the context in which they learn respect for authority and thus respect for the authority of God.  Let’s face it; our bodies would love to indulge in things that are not good for us.  A child’s curiosity about a flickering light can cause them to be badly burned.  The parent says, “no, no.”  That “no, no” may indeed be a burden for the child since he or she so badly wants to touch.  So the parent must discipline the child to do what is best.  And discipline of the parent trains the child at some point to receive the discipline of God.  When God says “no, no” He does so for our own protection and good.   By learning to honor our parents and respect their judgments, we are in essence learning to honor God.  We are all born selfish and that selfishness, if not tempered and replaced by godliness, will reap destruction.  Parents have a chore and that is to train their children in godliness.  And when the parents are gone, our parent becomes God where the training continues all the days of our lives.  And those whose lives are lived under the authority of God receive the blessings of God “long in the land.”  

        So in essence the 5th Commandment is about respect for authority of parents so that we learn to respect God’s authority which is the foundation upon which God promises to give us a land (society, culture) that will endure.  And when the respect for authority is gone, so too is respect for God, and when that happens – “unless the Lord builds the house, we have labored in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)  Paul was right.  Rebellion of young people, if it becomes the foundation of our land, will bring about our end.

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