Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Search Of Truth, Exodus 20:8-12

The Hebrew word describing how God "rested" on the seventh day in Genesis 2:2 is where the Hebrew word for Sabbath comes from. Israel was given six days each week to do all of their work, but the seventh day of the week was to be "holy". (Holy meaning "set apart for the purposes of God".) This day wasn't for the normal and mundane. It was devoted to Yahweh.

To serve this purpose, work was not allowed. For anyone. Including the servants of the Israelites or any non-Israelites living with them. As indicated in the re-statement of this command in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, this was so that everyone could participate in this special day of relationship with Yahweh.

As the origin of the word and the text itself here implies, this Sabbath day was linked somehow with the way God "rested" on the seventh day of creation. Some scholars also see a connection here to a future "Sabbath rest" that believers are meant to experience. (More on that when we look at Hebrews in a few months.)

Honoring parents is and was of course in keeping with God's loving nature. But it was also vital to the long-term health of the Israelite community. Israel was an oral culture. Although written records ultimately preserved the words of God and the history of Israel, wisdom was most commonly passed on verbally. Parents had the responsibility of teaching truth to their children (Deuteronomy 4:7-10) and therefore children had the responsibility of giving weight and value to the words of their parents.

This command is also linked to the land-covenant Yahweh made with Israel. Enjoying the land they had been promised would depend on their willingness to be instructed. Neglecting the instruction of their parents would eventually mean the collapse of their entire society.

This command is rephrased and given to the church today.

(Ephesians 6:1-3) 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."

In both Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1, the honoring and obeying done by the children is under the assumption that the parents are giving instruction or direction that is consistent with the expressed will of God. (The phrase "in the Lord" indicates this in Ephesians 6:1.)

I want to avoid generalizing here and I realize I'm entering sensitive territory, but I've noticed a correlation between many hardcore geeks and some significant dysfunction in their relationship with one or more parents. The form varies greatly. It could be a history of verbal abuse or a parent who was largely absent in childhood and young adult years. In some cases it's far worse. So for many the question is, "How can I possibly 'honor' or 'obey' a parent who has treated me horribly or even continues to do so?"

Again, I want to tread carefully here. I'm blessed with, relatively speaking, a wonderful relationship with both of my parents. So to claim I have experience-based answers for those in a bad relational situation with their parents would be careless. That said, and omitting details to protect relationships, I've had fairly close and recurring exposure to situations of parent/child conflict, in which the parents are far from blameless. So I'm not without at least a little experience here, either.

It seems to me that we can't use the sinful behavior of parents as an excuse to ignore the command to "responsively listen to and submit to" them(as the Greek for "obey" means in Ephesians 6:1).

However, as the wording of Ephesians 6:1 indicates, this obedience and submission extends only to instruction or direction that is compatible with complete obedience to scripture. If a parent commands a child to do something that violates the instruction of scripture, the child is not obligated to obey or consider that command. This includes a violation of our command to love others or specifically to love our parents.

(Romans 13:10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

(Galatians 5:22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

The Greek word for love in these verses is "agape". In his lexicon of New Testament Greek, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates said this word refers to a kind of benevolence "not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved."

Sometimes "loving" our parents will need to take priority over obeying them. We should be careful not to use this as a smokescreen for our refusal to respect parents who mistreat us. But at times we may need to reject the instruction or commands of our parents if obeying them would mean enabling sinful behavior. At the same time, we should look for every possible way to improve our relationships with our parents and honor them in whatever ways we can. Not because they deserve it, but because honoring them is honoring to God.

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