Exodus 20:12 ~ 20110814 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/14 Exodus 20:12 Word #5 Honor
We are studying God's ten words to the people he redeemed from slavery in Egypt and bought to be his own. He is now giving them his house rules, what it looks like to be in relationship with him. He starts with himself, because everything is all about God. He introduces himself as the self-existent one, YHWH, who brought them out of slavery. His first four words of instruction are about our vertical relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. You shall have no other gods, I am to be worshiped exclusively. You shall not misrepresent me by using images in worship. You shall honor my name, my character, my reputation. You shall honor me with your time and set aside time to enjoy our relationship.
Now, in commandment five, there is a shift in focus from the vertical relationship with our God to our horizontal relationships with our fellow men. And it's instructive to see where he starts. We might think he would start with the sanctity of life – you shall not murder. Or with the most basic unit of society, the marriage relationship – you shall not commit adultery. Or, he could start with being satisfied with God alone – you shall not covet. But instead he starts here:
Honor God Alone or Honor Parents?
Honor father and mother. This is a surprising command, because he has just finished telling us that we are to honor, reverence, and worship God alone. And now he tells us to honor or reverence someone else, namely our parents. The Hebrew word translated 'honor' here is interesting. The same root word is used in Exodus 14 three times for God 'getting glory' over Pharaoh (v.4,17,18). The Hebrew word “Kabad”, translated honor or reverence or glory literally means 'heavy' or 'weighty'. God is not to be taken lightly. He is substantial. He is to be treated, not with an ounce, but with tons of respect. We are to weigh what he says with great gravity. This word for honor or glory shows up in Psalm 22.
Fear him, praise him, honor or glorify him, stand in awe of him. That is how we are to respond to God. Now this is extended to human parents.
In fact, in Leviticus 19, this word for fear is extended toward mother and father:
How is it that we are to reverence, fear, and honor God alone, and yet he extends this same reverence, fear, or respect to our parents? Isaiah (48:11) tells us that God will not give his glory to another, and yet he commands that we give glory or honor to our parents.
In Hebrews chapter 12, there is a parallel drawn between our earthly fathers, who discipline us, and to whom we owe respect, and God, who treats us as sons and disciplines us for our good. We are to honor our parents as an extension of God's authority. The authority of parents is derived from God's authority. Parents serve as a visible extension of God to us. Paul expands this general principle to all governing authorities in Romans 13. He says
Parents receive their authority from God. They have been appointed by God, and they serve God in administering his authority. Paul concludes
We owe a debt of honor to God and to our parents. We demonstrate that we honor God by honoring those he has placed in authority over us. To dishonor parents is to dishonor the one who gave them to us.
John asserts that we cannot disconnect how we treat people on the horizontal level from what we think of God on the vertical level.
So showing honor to parents whom God invested with authority is a tangible way of demonstrating that we truly honor God who is the ultimate authority.
Death Penalty for Dishonor
This is a serious issue. God takes honor of father and mother so seriously, that he established the death penalty for children who do not show honor to their parents.
The concrete expressions of dishonor worthy of death were striking parents or cursing parents; we might say talking back to parents. In Deuteronomy, there is a procedure given for how to handle a persistently stubborn, rebellious, disobedient son, who will not respond to discipline.
In the New Testament we find disobedience to parents showing up in some shocking catalogs of the worst of the worst.
It might be a shock to our modern ears to hear something as commonplace and tolerated as disobedience to parents listed alongside murder, ruthless, treacherous, abusive, inventors of evil, haters of God.
Why is this so serious? Why death under the old covenant for those who dishonor parents? This disregard for proper human authority demonstrates a disregard for the one who established that authority. We no longer execute disobedient children. But in Romans we are told that the wages of sin is death (6:23), and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (3:23). We have all failed to give God the glory and honor that we owe to him. The consequences for this God-dishonoring attitude is spiritual death, or eternal separation from God.
What Does It Mean to Honor Parents?
One way we honor God is by honoring parents. Practically, what does this look like? Let's take a look to the wisdom book of Proverbs to get some snapshots of what it looks like to honor mother and father.
This is what honor looks like: listening to their instruction, not forsaking their teaching, not despising them, not stealing from them, not violent toward them, not cursing, mocking or scorning them, bringing joy and not sorrow to their hearts. We can add this to what Deuteronomy told us about not being stubborn, rebellious, disobedient, or unresponsive to discipline.
Jesus confronted the Pharisees of his day over their encouraging people to violate the fifth command.
Jesus connects honor of parents directly to how an adult son cares for his elderly parents. The Pharisees allowed a son who wanted to get out of his responsibility to care for his parents to dedicate his assets to God. The primary social responsibility for the care of the elderly falls on their own family. This may have far reaching implications on our own personal finances. Paul even says:
(This, by the way, is a good argument for having a lot of kids – I want to be well cared for when I'm old!)
The Example of Jesus
We can learn more about what honoring our parents should look like by looking at how Jesus honored his Father.
Jesus, in his dispute with the Pharisees, described what it means to honor your father. Jesus said “if you knew me, you would know my Father also” (Jn.8:19). His character was such a perfect reflection of the character of the Father, that to know one was to know the other. Jesus said “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (Jn.8:28). Jesus was in perfect submission to his Father's authority. He was perfectly obedient to his Father, he listened to and learned from his Father. Even in his speech, he perfectly reflected the Father. He sums up his honor of the Father in this way: “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn.8:29). On two different occasions, the Father attested to this verbally from heaven, saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Jesus gave us the perfect picture of what it means to honor parents.
Jesus Lord of the Family
But Jesus also said some radical things to his followers about family relationships
Is Jesus teaching us to violate the fifth commandment? At first glance, it might seem so. But he was simply honoring the priority of God in all things. Where there is a conflict between obedience to God and obedience to parents, we must obey God rather than men. In commandment five, we are told that the child to parent relationship is second in honor only to the relationship of people to God. And Jesus, in saying that you cannot love father or mother more than me, in other words, you must honor me above father and mother, Jesus is blatantly claiming to be God! Jesus demands our allegiance above even family.
Let's try to tie this all together. What do we do with all this? First of all, we should keep first things first. We must honor God, we must honor Jesus above all human relationships, even family. He demands first place in everything.
We should follow Jesus' example, to always do the things that are pleasing to the Father.
We as children must honor, reverence, respect our parents.
By extension, we must honor all those God has placed in positions of authority.
Parents, demand honor from your children. Discipline them lovingly, for their good. Do not tolerate disobedience or disrespect. Train them to respect authority. Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Teach them to honor the Lord and those he has placed in authority.
There might be a parent who says 'but I'm not worthy of honor.' That may be true, but this is bigger than you. God has given you authority, and he has entrusted your children into your care. In training them how to relate to you as a parent, you are teaching them about God. Do your job.
Parents, act in a manner worthy of honor and respect. If you want to be honored, have character that is honorable. Add to your faith; virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love (2Pet.1:5-7).
This honor or respect is foundational to life and society. Honoring our parents as God commanded is a way of glorifying God.