Back to School (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
My most memorable first day back to school is Monday August 29, 2005, the first day of my second year of my doctoral program. I had to be in Montgomery, Alabama, for a course on Secular Humanism, and that was the day Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Montgomery is a good ways from New Orleans, but Katrina still came through as a category one hurricane.
So many suffered dreadfully, and scores of people died. I don’t want to diminish that suffering, but when you grew up in Kentucky, your first hurricane is memorable. During that first day of class, we watched the clouds roll in, the winds pick up, and the rain pour. The whole class went to lunch together that first day; it was rather “interesting” walking to and from our cars. That afternoon, tornado warnings forced me to take shelter. On top of that, my cell phone kept buzzing from my family checking in on me.
Don’t you have some back to school memories, too? Maybe you remember the friends you made on that first day. Maybe when you got home from your first day, your mom always had warm cookies and milk ready for you. Maybe you have a special memory of a favorite teacher. Maybe you remember a special outfit you wore.
Our students and teachers recently started back to school to teach and to learn. God has truths that he wants learned and taught, and in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses told the Israelites what those truths are. As you examine the text, you will see: “You teach your children because of who God is.”
Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
“Hear, O Israel.” With those words Moses summoned the nation to learn an important truth.
“The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” There are three possible meanings of this truth:
This could mean that there is only one God, which is obviously true.
This could also mean that God exists in perfect harmony. In other words, God is perfectly holy and just and merciful and vengeful. God holds every facet of his character in perfect harmony.
This could also mean that God is above all other gods. Ancient literature often claimed that pagan gods were one, and the people meant whatever god they worshiped was greater than other deities. God, because he is the living God, stands far above lifeless idols
Because all these ideas are obviously true, it’s impossible to know which one Moses intended.
The Hebrews were to love the LORD their God. In Deuteronomy, God was making a treaty with his people. The word “love” was often used in ancient treaties to mean “loyal international relationships.” The Hebrews would love God by being loyal to him.
The Hebrews were to love God with all their heart and soul and might. The idea is that the Hebrews were to love God with their entire being.
God’s truths were to be on the people’s hearts. The Hebrew language didn’t have a word for “brain” or “mind,” so they used “heart” for the seat of cognition.
The Hebrews were to teach God’s truths diligently to their children. The parents were to teach their children during the normal course of day-to-day activities, and they were always to be looking for an opportunity to teach.
The people were to make visible representations of God’s law so that they would remember to obey, a common practice in that period of history.
“You teach your children because of who God is.”
“The LORD is one.” The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the living God; therefore, children need to know about him. That one living God exists in perfect harmony; therefore, children need to know his perfect character. That one living God who exists in perfect harmony is above every idol, for he exists and idols don’t; children need to know there’s a God in heaven.
Parents must teach their children the truth. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
How do you take your children “Back to School” and teach them God’s word?
One: You Learn.
You cannot teach about God if you don’t know God. That’s how Moses began the passage: “Hear, O Israel.” The people of Israel needed to know God’s character and then teach.
You must spend time studying the truth of God so you can teach. Peter said you should “make every effort” to add knowledge to your life (2 Pet 1:5). Why should you spend time studying and teaching the Bible?
The Bible is the word of God.
The men who wrote the Bible “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). The one living God reveals himself in holy scripture.
The Bible will lead you to eternal salvation.
From childhood Timothy had “been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). If you want to go to heaven and take your children with you, you’d better know the “sacred writings.”
Spend time daily in the word of God; make a commitment to spend at least 15 minutes a day in the book.
Attend Bible class and dig deeply into the word of God.
Two: You Love.
When you know God, you love God. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
When asked what “is the great commandment in the Law,” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matt 22:36-38). Jesus defined that love as obedience to God: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
Therefore, loving God means you obey God with everthing that is in you. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Js 1:22). Honestly, the more you learn about God, the more you will want to obey him. You will want to obey a God who will answer every prayer according to his perfect will. You will want to obey a God who sent his Son to die for your sins. You will want to obey a God who lavishes innumerable blessings on you.
Take a careful look at your life the past month or so: How much are you honestly obeying God? Why haven’t you been obeying God like you should? What corrections do you need to make to obey God fully?
Three: You Lead.
That’s what Moses told the Hebrews: “You shall teach them diligently to your children.” In other words, you lead—you teach—your children the truth of God. David taught his children: “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Ps 34:11). Solomon taught his son: “My son, do not forget my teaching” (Prov 3:1). Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Tim 1:5).
You must follow the example of those men and women and teach your children. You need to answer this question: “Do I really want my children to go to heaven?” If so, you need to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Make a plan for teaching your children. What do you need to do to teach your children? Do you need to set aside a specific time to teach? Do you need to be more regular in your Sunday school attendance? Do you need to set a better example of obedience? Once you have a plan, stick to it!
Many of you with grown children and grandchildren might think your teaching days are over, but I beg to differ. Your presence here this morning is teaching your children and grandchildren what’s important in your life.
But let me ask you to do some hard work. Ask yourself, “Was there something I didn’t teach my children when they were at home? Do I need to correct some poor teaching I did?”
Find a way—the best you can—to teach your adult children the truth. If you need to make amends for not leading your children, make amends. If you need to sit down with your child and do some teaching, see if your child will allow you to do that. If you can write a letter explaining God’s truth, write a letter. If it’s better that you teach those truths from beyond the grave, write that letter and leave it with your will and other important documents. Whatever you do, find a way to teach your children!
“You teach your children because of who God is.”
In order to teach your children, though, you need to learn and love. Are you learning from God this morning? Are you loving the Lord your God with all that is in you—i.e., are you obeying God with every fiber of your being? Do you need to come this morning and begin a life of obedience to God?