Our Heavenly Father, as we open up these Bibles that we have brought, our hearts, our lives are laid bare and open before You, that You might instruct us, remind us. Most of the things we hear we have heard before; make them fresh, make them ours. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Well today we're going to look at the command that every parent loves to quote and every child hates to hear. But before we begin I want to read to you some great truths about life that little children have learned; these are always fun. Number one, no matter how hard you try you can't baptize cats. That's a great truth. Number two, when your mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair. Number three, if your sister hits you don't hit her back; they always catch the second person. Four, don't ask your three year old little brother to hold a tomato. Number five, you can't trust dogs to watch your food. Number six, don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair. Number seven, never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time. Number eight, you can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. Number nine, don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts. Number ten, the best place to be when you're sad is grandpa's lap; great truths from little children. Now in the fabric of each one of those little funny quips is the understanding of respect and authority and love within the home - that primary unit of the family.
Twenty one years ago on May 8, 1986 there was a clarifying moment for me. It was the day my son Nate was born, over on the Westside, and I was so proud, I was so emotional. And I just realized, it hit me like a ton of bricks, "I'm a dad." It was such a new idea and concept. Not only was it a clarifying moment that I was a dad, but it was also this moment in which I realized, though I knew it, but suddenly realized again, that not only was I a dad but I was a son of parents who was now a dad. And I wondered, "Had I honored my parents like I should? Because now I have this son and the weight of it all is falling on me." So the first call that I made was to my parents. I said something like, "Thank you for putting up with me my whole life; thank you for your love and your patience; and by the way, you have a grandson."
Now today we study the fifth commandment. It's in verse 12 of Exodus chapter 20, and though it is the fifth commandment, it's the first in the list of what we call horizontal commandments. This marks the beginning of the second half of the ten; God's Top Ten is divided into two sections and this commandment marks the first commandment of the second table of the law that deals with human social relations. Now the title of this message I've given - "Because I Said So." That's the name of the message. I called it that because that's sort of the trump card that every parent uses when he or she doesn't want to explain all of the ramifications as to why the parent wants the child to do something. You know how it goes - "Why should I clean my room?" "Because I said so!" "Why should I not eat that bug?" "Because I said so!" "Why should I let go of the dogs' ears?" "Because I said so!" So there's that understood authority within the home that the parent says so and the child is to honor that. And yet we discover here something even more foundational and basic and important than because a parent says so, and that's because God says so. This is one of the commandments: to honor your father and your mother. By the way, isn't that the ultimate rational for keeping all of the commandments? Why do we have no other gods before Him? Because He said so. Why do we have no idols when we worship Him? Because He said so. Why do we honor His name? Because He said so. Why do we keep holy the Sabbath? For the same reason why do we honor our parents - because the Lord God said so. It's the ultimate reason to keep any of these commandments.
Well this fifth commandment is a commandment that gets tested throughout a parent's lifetime by the children, especially I would say, in the teenage years; when the rebel force enters the home. The child wants to test the parameters of this commandment. I heard about a sixteen year old boy who just got his drivers license and he wanted to discuss with his dad the use of the family car. So the dad said, "I'll tell you what, you bring your grades up, you start reading the Bible more, and you get your hair cut, and we'll talk about it." About a month went by and that dad approached his son, "Son I'm proud of you- congratulations. I noticed that you're bringing your grades up, I've also noticed that you're reading your Bible a lot more, but I also noticed you haven't yet cut your hair." The son looked up from the Bible that he was reading and said, "Well you know dad, since I've been reading the Bible I've noticed a couple things. I noticed that Samson had long hair, and Absalom had long hair, and Moses, and it would seem even Jesus had long hair." And dad didn't skip a beat he said, "Yep, you're right and they walked wherever they went." So, you see, the only difference between walking and driving for that sixteen year old was honoring his father.
Well we're going to look at this commandment, the 12 verse, the fifth commandment, and I'm going to do it in two weeks. Yep, once again I find myself at a loss of time to really explore all that's here and because it's such a basic foundational truth of life I want to unpack the meaning of this commandment in two weeks; discover what does it means to honor ones' mother and father? What does it speak to us generally as well as specifically? What do you do if your parents are deceased? How do you honor parents when there's a divorced? What does it mean to live long in the land, and what about when there is a family blow up? We want to look at that in the next couple of weeks.
But let's go to the twelfth verse and just read the commandment. "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you." That is the commandment and today we're going to look at this commandment generally and specifically. We want to get a sense of this commandment; what it implies generally; and then we want to scope out this commandment more specifically. What I'd like you to do for a moment is just step back from the singular commandment and consider once again all ten of them. Understand that the Ten Commandments essentially divide all of life into two categories. Call it the vertical and the horizontal; our relationship with God and our relationship with people. The first four commandments represent the vertical plane; the second six, the horizontal plane. The first four, all about my relationship with God; they are theocentric; God-centered. The second six are anthropocentric; man-centered. In other words, here are six ways to get along with people. That's the second table of the law, beginning with this commandment. The fifth commandment takes us right into the home itself; the very heart of all relationships; the basic family, parent-child relationship. Question, why is this first on the list in the second table of the law? The first four are out of the way. Now we're dealing on the human horizontal level, why is honoring parents first on the list? As if to imply it's more important than "You shall not murder," "You shall not commit adultery," etc.
There's an obvious reason why it's first on the list and it's because it applies to everyone. Every person has parents or has had them. Not every person is a husband, not every person is a wife; so the adultery one doesn't apply to everyone. Not every person is even a neighbor if they live in a remote place. But this commandment applies to absolutely every human being. Also, the very first people you meet in life are your parents. That's the foundation of everything - the parent-child relationship. They are the first ones you meet. What are the first words a child typically says? It's not bicycle, it's not stock-market, it's not dude. It's usually mama or dada; that's the first relationship.
If you were to boil all of life down to its irreducible minimum, take away all of the fluff, all of the venire, all of the stuff, and you boil life down to its core it could be summed up in one word - relationships. As believers, once again, vertically with God - horizontally with people. All of life can be boiled down to that. That's how Jesus saw life. When he was asked by the Pharisees, "What is the greatest commandment? It's interesting that when Jesus answered that He combined two different verses of Scripture in His answer. One out of Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 5, and the second Leviticus 19:18 and He put them all together. He said, "Master, what is the greatest commandment?" Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And the second commandment is like unto the first, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Vertically, love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Horizontally, love your neighbor as yourself. All of life, Jesus boiled down to these two categories. And the first neighbors that you have are your parents. So generally we understand from this commandment that relationships are precious and family relationships are most precious. But, here's the twist, here's the irony of it; though relationships are precious and family relationships most precious, they're also very precarious, shaky. I don't know if you would agree with this, but our greatest failure in life usually is in the area of relationships. If I were to look at Western Civilization, Western culture, I don't think that the biggest weakness of our culture is technology; I think we excel at that. I don't think the biggest challenge to our culture is freedom or democracy; it's relationships. Now I can prove that, go to any bookstore and say, "What are your best selling books; what are they about?" Relationships, marriage, divorce, parenting. Talk to people who produce Christian radio broadcasts. What are the hot button topics; what are the shows, the programs, that are listened to most often? Family programming about marriage, and family, and parenting, etc.
Several years ago, I wanted to conduct a little survey of the church to find out what questions people had that they felt they needed answers from the Bible on. So I said, "Write down your questions, submit them, and we'll categorize them and over the next several months we'll answer your questions." Well I wasn't prepared for what I was going to get. I thought I would get questions about creation and evolution versus eschatology and kind of the whole gamut; and we got a few of those. Overwhelmingly though, the questions were about "How do I get along with my husband", "How do I love that wife of mine", "How do I raise those kids?" They were almost all about relationships. I think it was the second week into that series, where at the beginning of the service rather than saying, "Now turn around and greet someone," like we typically do, I think I said, "Turn around and give a hug to the person standing next to you." Well I got a note that week, an anonymous note in the agape box that said, "Dear Skip, my husband did just as you suggested this morning and he hugged the person next to him, me. We sleep in the same bed, but until this morning we have had no physical contact for three months." That's a weakness at the very fundamental value core and that is relationships.
Let's explore that just a bit. Why is this? Why is it the case that relationships that are most precious, especially within the family are the most precarious? There're a lot of reasons why - I'll give you three. Number one, unrestrained or you might say unrelenting pressure from our culture. Our culture is not sympathetic with the fifth commandment. Our culture has mounted over the last several decades this unending, unrelenting attack and barrage on the family. Family values are mocked now-a-days; even that catch phrase is. Social scientist, James Wilson, who was at Harvard and then UCLA noted, "We are witnessing a profound, world-wide, long-term change in the family that is likely to continue for a long time." He had surveyed and studied the values of the culture and the changes in the value system of the culture, and noted that over the last several decades there's been a change and we're on a path and it's not soon to end. One educator said, and I quote, "To free the child we must do away with parenthood and marriage." Now, that has got to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. How do you free a child by getting rid of parenthood? How do you get children? By parenthood! But he says that, "To free the child we must do away with parenthood and marriage; we must settle for nothing less than the total elimination of the family." What he meant was the traditional family. Our world does not value the fifth commandment. It mocks it; it makes light of it. How many TV shows depict parents as absolute morons that are just too stupid to be cool? A lot of them. Some of you grew up with "Ozzie and Harriet." Your kids grew up with Ozzie and Sharon. It's a whole different paradigm. But some of you grew up with "Ozzie and Harriet" or "My Three Sons" with Fred McMurray or "Leave it to Beaver." In all of those shows, there was an interesting thread - dad was the smartest guy in the room. In all of those shows, mom was the wisest woman around. Boy, have things changed. From "Ozzie and Harriet" to "Bevis and his Buddy," whom we won't mention, and "Ozzie and Sharon," and the "Simpson's." You know, you don't get a whole lot of parental respect from looking at Homer and Marge Simpson. Did you know that the Simpson's have dominated television for 18 years now? What that means is that your kids have witnessed in this funny, little, quippy cartoon, Bart being smarter than his dad their whole lives. There's a conditioning, cumulatively, that happens with all of that; this unrestrained, unrelenting pressure from our culture.
There's a second reason that we fail with relationships. I would say it's untended priorities. Relationships are precious. Family relationships, most precious but they're precarious because of untended priorities. People just don't make that relationship an important part of their life. They don't nurture it, they don't maintain it. You cannot put relationships on auto-pilot; it doesn't work. There is no such button. Think of it this way: if you're a couple you only you have two relationships - one couple, two relationships. The relationship the husband has with his wife, the relationship the wife has with her husband. It's pretty simple. Add one child to that mix and now you have six relationships. The relationship he has with his wife and he has with his son or daughter - that's two - the relationship she as a wife has with her husband, and the relationship she has with her child - that's four relationships - and then the relationship the child has with the father and the one the child has with the mother - that's six relationships. Add three children to the mix - you have twelve; and so on. It exponentially increases. So that's a lot of gears that need lubrication; need tending; need prioritizing, and if a person just says, "Well, I have a family but they'll go and make it on their own," it'll get pretty sticky later on. Here's an analogy: there were two paddle boats that left together on the Mississippi toward New Orleans. As they were going on the Mississippi River, the two paddle boats came next to each other, and one of the crew members shouted to the other boat, "We're faster than you guys, you guys are slow." The other crew said, "No, we'll beat you there." So they challenged each other to a race. Well, one of them started falling behind on the way to New Orleans. It's because he didn't have enough fuel. He had enough coal for the trip but not for the race. So he started throwing the cargo overboard until the Captain discovered, "I can burn the cargo. It burns just as well as the fuel." Well, that boat won the race. It's ironic. It won the race but burned the cargo, and by the way it was a cargo boat. It was meant to take cargo from one place to another place. In this case, from Memphis to New Orleans. Here's my question? How much precious cargo are you willing to burn to win a personal race for yourself at the expense at the cargo of relationships in your family? So, we have unrestrained pressure and untended priorities.
Number three: unsteady parents. Now you might be thinking, "Now wait a minute Skip, this is a commandment for children, not parents." But every parent begins as a child and grows up and has children and becomes a parent and raises children that will one day become parents. So this is a perpetuated cycle. What adds to the rockiness within a home and the violation of the fifth commandment, is in many cases, are unsteady parents who will not make the right kind of spiritual commitment. Remember Joshua? He stood up before the people of Israel in chapter 24 of that book and he said, "Choose this day whom you will serve. Make a choice now. Whether it's going to be the gods that your father served on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now dwell, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord." He staked his claim (spiritual), as one whom as a leader of a nation, as a husband to a wife, and as a father to children, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Ladies and gentlemen, our children need to see their parents as people who also bow the knee and respect and honor to a heavenly Father. That we let them know, "I too have a Father. Whether my father or mother have passed away, I want to honor my Father in heaven." There's a steadiness that happens within the home because of that. Abraham Lincoln said, "For a man to train up his child in the way that he should go, he must walk that way himself." So it's one thing to say, "Train up a child in the way that he will go and when he's old, he won't depart from it," but you have got to walk that way yourself if that's going to happen. You know one hundred years from now, it won't matter what car you drove, it won't matter what house you lived in, what kind of clothes you bought and wore, if you look cool or not. But it will matter what kind of relationship you had with son, daughter, parents, grandparents, grandchildren. All of that will reap consequences in the future.
Let's go back to this commandment and see the scope of this specifically. Let's read it again. "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you." Now, the sentence is a commandment - it's in the imperative. The subject is understood by anybody who reads it. You - that's the predicate, object - father and mother. Notice it doesn't say, "Honor your father or your mother." Take a choice, one or the other. The idea is you honor both of them. There's interaction with two parents that is implied in this commandment. On one hand you might say this is strong rebuke to homosexuality. The homosexual community is trying to redefine the whole concept of family through homosexual adoption. But from the beginning, God said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, be joined unto his wife and the two will become one flesh." So God's design from the beginning was a home with two parents raising children to honor them - both of them. Now, that means you can't say, "Well, I'll love my mother, buy I will never show any honor to my father; you don't know what he did to me when I grew up." I read, "Honor your father and your mother." We'll talk a little bit more on how to do that next week, but both should be honored.
Let me sort of set this foundation. I want to read something to you and I'd like you to listen to it. It's from Armand Nicholi. He was a world famous Harvard Medical School psychiatrist. "Certain trends prevalent today will incapacitate the family, destroy its integrity, and cause its members to suffer such crippling, emotional conflicts that they will become an intolerable burden to society. If any one factor influences the character development and emotional stability of an individual it's the quality of the relationship he or she experiences as a child with both parents. Conversely, if people suffering from severe, nonorganic emotional illness have one experience in common, it's the absence of a parent through death, divorce or some other cause. A parent's inaccessibility, either physically, emotionally, or both, can profoundly influence a child's emotional health."
I remember when I was first saved. I had grown up in a home with a very strict, aloof, authoritarian father figure. We weren't close. He just wouldn't allow it. And I remember when I got saved that there was a sense of self-righteousness that I had. "Now I know the truth, and he doesn't." I felt it gave me the right to preach down to him. I'll never forget the evening the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Go humble yourself before your father and tell him you're sorry for your bad attitude." I thought, "Me? I'm the saved one now. I'm the one who has got it right. He doesn't!" And the Lord said, "Exactly why you should humble yourself. You now are My child, you are the saved one, I hold you to a higher standard. Go humble yourself before your father and tell him you're sorry for your bad attitude." That was the start of turning our relationship around - was honoring my father, even though there were things that I felt he had done that were wrong and reprehensible. So both from the text, specifically, father and mother, should be honored and both parents should agree on discipline. Again, think of the text. Father and mother. A father and a mother in a home should agree on the discipline. Otherwise, if your disciplinary tact is different one from the other, all you're doing is raising a manipulator. One who will figure out the system; how to play one parent against the other and that will transfer into life. Also, both should agree on expectations they have for their child. If the rules in the home are contradictory and the expectations are contradictory it's going to be impossible for a child to keep this commandment.
Not only is there this interaction with two parents but something else about this commandment. I started snooping around the Bible and discovered that not once is this commandment mentioned, not twice but a total of eight times; twice in the Old Testament, and six times in the New Testament is the commandment repeated. Not alluded to, not referenced, not examples of, there's numerous occasions of that, but simply repeated - to honor your father and mother - eight times. Now I'm sharing that simply to say, if God says something once, that ought to be enough. If He says it eight times, we ought to listen carefully.
Finally, more specifically, even though the commandment is very plain, anyone who reads this - honor, respect, reverence, your father and your mother - did you know that over time, like so many of the other commandments, this commandment got added to, tampered with and watered down? That's right. People started taking their own traditions and interpretations and raising them above the level of Scripture itself. We have an example of that. I'd like you to turn to it in Mark chapter 7, where we'll close this morning. Now in this chapter Jesus is meeting with the religious elite, the Pharisees. He quotes Isaiah and he says, "Isaiah talked about you guys, you're hypocrites; you honor me with your mouths, your hearts are far from me." Verse 9, "He said to them, 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban,' (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.'" Did you know that in the Mishnah, the oral law that's part of the Talmud that was written down? It says it was a greater offense to say anything contrary to the Rabbis' voices than to contradict Scripture itself. They started elevating peoples' traditions, their traditions, over the plain commandment of God to honor their parents. This is what they did. They said, "Yes the commandment says, 'Honor father and mother,' however, if you dedicate everything you have to God - your bank account, your camels, your tent, your chariot - when your parents get older and they need something from you, you can say, "Well, I'd love to but I can't because it's been dedicated to God to be used for spiritual purposes." So their poor parents didn't have the benefit of their children honoring them because they had added to and reinterpreted this command. We say, "That's preposterous, that's ridiculous!" Yep! But we do the same in our culture. We reinterpret the laws of God. "Well, they don't mean that now." We reinterpret the laws of adultery; we reinterpret the laws of murder; we reinterpret the laws of honor and respect and authority. We might have excuses, "I can't honor my mother and father, they're not even believers." What, that's an excuse? "I can't honor by father and mother, you don't what they did to me, they didn't love me, so I don't need to respect them."
So this morning, let's walk away with just a few thoughts, shall we? First and foremost is that relationships are the very core, the very precious core of who we are; of getting along with family members, mother, father, child. We were wired for that. The very thing that we were wired for and programmed to do is the very thing that is being challenged. Because our relationships were affected by the fall of man, remember Adam and Eve? They sinned; there was a strain in their relationship. It passed on to their children. One murdered the other. So, yes we were wired for nurturing relationship and yet it's been effected by the fall. Keep that in mind. Number two, it's been attacked by our culture. Progressive post modernisms, scientific naturalism, all of those other isms, have attacked the fifth commandment. They've tried to re-alter, restructure the meaning of the family and sadly, it's been neglected by the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ, it seems, is all too willing to accommodate to the whims and the value system of this world.
So what's my message? Simply this: fight your culture. Be counter-cultural; be a revolutionary in this one. Break the trend, fight the culture, break the cycle, reverse the trend. If you're going to get anything right, get family right because all of us are children of parents who are now raising children who will one day be parents. And you know the biblical truth, "Whatever a man sows he will also reap." I want to illustrate that, not from a Bible verse, but from a song from way back when - I mean a long time ago - 1974! Harry Chapman wrote a famous song called "Cat's In the Cradle." He said that when he first sang this song for one of the first times, "This song, frankly, scares me to death, because I don't want to do this." - "My child arrived just the other day, he came to the world in the usual way, but there were planes to catch and bills to pay, he learned to walk while I was away. And he was talking 'fore I knew it and as he grew, he'd say, 'I'm gonna be like you dad, you know I'm gonna be like you.' And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little boy blue and the man on the moon. 'When are you coming home dad?' 'I don't know, when but we'll get together then son, you know we'll have a good time then.' My son turned ten just the other day, he said, 'thanks for the ball dad, come on let's play. Can you teach me to throw?' I said, 'Not today, I've got a lot to do.' He said, 'That's okay.' And as he walked away, his smile never dimmed and said, 'I'm gonna be like him, yeah, you know I'm gonna be like him.' And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little boy blue and the man on the moon. 'When you coming home dad?' 'I don't know when, but we'll get together then son, you know we'll have a good time then.' Well, he came home from college just the other day; so much like a man I just had to say 'Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?'
He shook his head and said with a smile, 'What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys. See you later, can I have them please?' And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.
Little boy blue and the man on the moon. 'When you comin' home son?' 'I don't know when, but we'll get together then dad, you know we'll have a good time then.' I've long since retired, my son's moved away I called him up just the other day I said, 'I'd like to see you if you don't mind' He said, 'I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time. You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu. But it's sure nice talking to you dad. It's been sure nice talking to you.' And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
he'd grown up just like me. My boy was just like me. And the cat's in the cradle, and the silver spoon, little boy blue, and the man on the moon. When you coming home son? I don't know when, but we'll get together then dad, you know we'll have a good time then.'"
Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. I'm not sharing this with you so you feel guilty about what you've done in the past. I believe that at whatever point in your life you decide to make things different, to change, that God will honor that. I don't mean everything will be perfect, but God will honor that. And nothing gets families together faster and better than the Creator of families. When a mother or father or son or daughter or grandpa or grandchild comes to the heavenly Father through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, there is necessarily changes that will take place and one of them will be a humility and a desire to love and forgive and honor and respect.
Let's pray. Our heavenly Father, our Father in heaven, You're the only perfect parent, we understand that. Every human being has fallen short of Your glory. We pray Father, that from this auditorium, would be men and woman who will fight their cultural trends, the morays, the patterns, and the values around them. The barrage of assault, day in and day out through every corner to try and re-invent, reconstitute the truth of the family. I pray that we, as children, would say, 'I'm going to call my parents blessed, and honor them and be honest with them and seek forgiveness if need be.' I pray that we as parents would humble ourselves and go to our children. I pray that we would get this right; this area of relationship within the family. Lord, everybody has a free will, we can't alter that, we just pray that You would influence that and cause healing in our precious relationships. Lord I pray if anyone here does not have a relationship with You as heavenly Father, through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, that it would change today, before they go home, they'd get right with You. In Jesus' name. Amen.