Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Fifth Command

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

This is the commandment for little kids, right? Wrong! It is for grown-ups, as well. The heart of this commandment is the word “honor.” The Hebrew literally says, “make heavy.” The figurative meaning is to give great weight, praise, honor or respect to someone.

To honor or respect someone means to give great weight to their beliefs, opinions, way of doing things, in fact, everything about them. For children that implies obedience. That’s why Paul quotes this commandment after he instructed children to obey their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1). There he also points out that this is the first commandment with a promise. The promise is that if Israel obeys they will remain long in the land of Canaan.

This promise is repeated many times in the Law with regard to all the commands. But it is especially significant in regard to honoring parents. The family relationship, the respect for authority learned at home, the discipline developed through parental instruction, is the key to the success of any society. God warns us that to fail in this command is to fail in all of them in coming generations.

Grown-ups are no longer required to obey their parents, but they are still to honor them. This means respecting their advice, seeking their advice, continuing to value their wisdom, and sharing your life with them. This also means providing for them. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul, while giving instructions about the care of widows, remarks that if the widow has a family, that family should provide for her. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Respect and honor for parents, the fifth commandment, relates to how we treat one another. The first four deal with how we relate to God. But in a real sense, the way we relate to our parents in formative years determines to some extent the way we relate to God. It is also a test of how obedient we are to God.

If we have parents who are unworthy of such honor it becomes a task of figuring out how to honor them for their position without violating boundaries of safety and health. This becomes one of the most difficult tasks a child faces. A child, helplessly dependent on an abusive parent, must learn how to find healthy parenting from God and those God sends his or her way. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27:10).

I watched a story recently about a young man whose mother, at age 70 or so, was fired from her lifelong job and he realized that all his years growing up he had given his mother a hard time about not having enough money for him and his siblings to do things other kids were doing.  But her being fired stoked a fire in him to show his mother how much he honored her for how she sacrificed for him.  He made a bucket list with her of things they both wanted to do in their lives and began checking off the list with her.

How can you honor your parents?


Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Entrusting to God What We Hold Most Valuable

Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:1-10, ESV)


Can you imagine a mother’s anguish at knowing that her son will be discovered soon and she will be forced to kill him?  She has already had a daughter but this son she sees is “good” (Hebrew), an echo of Yahweh’s statement at creation (“And He saw that it was good”).  Was there something special about Moses (this was not the name his parents gave him as we shall see) or is it simply acknowledging that Moses was God’s good creation as any child would be? Either way, in her desperation she finally entrusts Moses to God by putting him in a makeshift ark and sending him down river, his sister (Miriam) following to see what happens.


Something happens, something they could not have predicted but that further indicated God’s favor on this child.  We don’t know how many daughters Pharaoh had, or if this one told her father she had adopted a Hebrew child (would he have objected or given in to this decision?).  Miriam boldly speaks up to Pharaoh’s daughter and suggests a Hebrew woman, her mother, who can nurse Moses.  Pharaoh’s daughter even pays Moses’ mom to nurse and wean him.  But then she has to give him up again to Pharaoh’s daughter to live in her household, her consolation being that her son at least lives.


God is sovereign over all things, even the decisions of human beings.  Did He allow other Hebrew boys to die at their parents’ hands or sovereignly rescue them?  We don’t know, but for this one family who had faith, He delivered in a miraculous way and prepared Moses for a unique role in His story.  Every child is valuable and “good” and so Scripture teaches us that infanticide (and by extension, suicide), in whatever form, is wrong.  God has a purpose for every single person born into this world, including you and me.


We deprive ourselves of joy by turning to self in time of need – by George Muller

Ephesians 6:1-4 — Conversations with God

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I can see, Lord, that You view children as having both a place of submission to their parents that leads to obedience and safety and a place of respect as those made in Your image.

They are, in Your view, unable to make sound decisions that will lead to healthy living so that it goes well with them and they live long in the land.  I suppose that it is possible that a parent or parents might give their children bad direction, causing them to make poor decisions that both result in unhealthy living and bring them into conflict with You.  I don’t suspect You would want children to obey such parents.  But normally, parents are concerned to help their children to live good lives, morally and spiritually correct lives.  And I thank You, Lord, for giving me parents who had that concern for me and my siblings.

But children are also, in Your view, worthy of respectful treatment.  Parents can’t treat their children as conveniences to push around at their will and still suppose themselves to be pleasing to You.  Parents can’t impose their authority on their children in such a way that they stir up anger instead of godly living.

It seems the way You are showing us to avoid such poor parenting is to make our goal bringing them up in Your discipline and instruction.  When my goal with my children is to show them Your ways that helps me exclude other goals I might have (like wanting them to fulfill my dreams, or making them my convenient slaves, or blaming them for my own failures, or demanding they be fully developed adults).

I know, Lord, that when I was a young parent I got off track at times in this area.  I would be angry at my kids for upsetting my peace, or not treating me with respect.  I would ask of them things they were not capable of doing.  I would not give them the time they needed to fill their hearts with security and love.  I provoked them to anger.  So thank You that You forgave me and protected them.

It speaks volumes to me, God, that You care this way for children and for parents, and so give us this instruction that we need.  You are an awesome Parent!