Rev. denHartog is pastor of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan. Previous article in this series: February 1, 2009, p. 201.
The daily conversation in the covenant home will do much to determine the character of this home—whether or not it is in reality a covenant home.
This is beautifully illustrated by the passage we have been considering in this rubric for some time. Moses the man of God commanded the Lord’s people in Deuteronomy 6 to teach the statutes and commandments and judgments of the Lord in their homes from day to day. In the whole book of Deuteronomy Moses urges upon God’s covenant people the great importance of keeping the law of God in their daily lives. God’s people will experience the great blessing of the Lord in the way of keeping the law of God. But Moses also warned about the fearful curse of God that shall come upon those that forsake the law of God and forget the Lord, the covenant God of His people. In the way of keeping the law of God, Israel will be a peculiar treasure unto the Lord, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. They will be a wise and understanding people, above all the peoples of the earth. God will be with His people as their God. He will dwell among them as with no other people, and will be near unto them, guiding and protecting them from their enemies and preserving and keeping them from all evil. (See Exodus 19 and Deuteronomy 4 and 7.) Over and over again in our covenant homes the commandments and statutes and judgments of the Lord must be rehearsed and talked about, so that they are not forgotten. We must teach them to our covenant children in our homes in the fear of God, with reverence for God, and with earnest concern for the spiritual life and nurture of our children. We must discuss with our covenant children the broad scope of the commandments of the Lord. They govern every area of our Christian life and have many great applications.
The perspective from which we teach God’s law in our home must be our own real and personal and fervent love for God, as we considered in our last article. Teaching our children in our covenant home may not be done with ritual and formalism. We must not teach our children to be Pharisees or hypocrites. Father must not rule in his home as a harsh and cruel dictator without any compassion in the tone of his voice or mannerism. Rather, Moses reminds covenant parents that they must first of all have the love of God in their own hearts. For this we must pray daily, for ourselves first of all. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. If we have the love of God in our own hearts, then there will be a proper warmth and affection evident in the very manner in which we speak to our children, in the manner in which we discipline them, and in the manner in which we encourage them in their own Christian walk. For the covenant family, the keeping of the law of the Lord our Redeemer is not grievous but joyous.
The law must be taught in our covenant homes so that children know the great seriousness of keeping the law of God. Sin against God is grievous. It brings the displeasure and chastisement of God on our lives. Sin must be confessed and repented of. It must be judged not by human standards but by the perfect standard of the law of God. Sin that is not confessed separates us from God. In the day-to-day life of the covenant home, conflicts will arise between its members. We are all still sinners. These conflicts must be resolved in biblical ways. Father and mother, with their children, must go daily to the cross of Jesus Christ in deep humility, pleading for His forgiving mercy. Then the promises of God’s forgiving mercy will be our comfort and encouragement, and we must convey this to our children also.
Every covenant home should have times of regular formal instruction in the truth of God every day. There must be order and discipline and structure in the home so that there is a time of family devotions, for the reading of the Word of God, for prayer together as a family, and for some discussion of the meaning and application of the Word of God to the lives of the members of the family. Events that take place in the home and the circumstances that the Lord in His providence orders from day to day in the course of the life of the home must be used as occasion for instruction from the Word of God.
Besides this regular formal instruction, the covenant home must have on-going spiritual conversation. This is beautifully stated in Deuteronomy 6. “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in the thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” This is a very comprehensive statement. In the course of life in the covenant home, there will be many subjects that are talked about. Circumstances will arise. Trials and difficulties will be faced from day to day. There will be joys and sorrows, progress and failures, triumphs and disappointments. All of these must be addressed with reference to the Word of God and the fear of God. Decisions have to be made in life, some far more important than others. Some will be so minor as what we will eat for breakfast or how we will be able to fit all the necessary work and activities of our day in the next twenty-four hours. Others will be so tremendously important that they will seriously impact the course of our life for many days to come, maybe even for the rest of our life and the lives of our children. For the child of God, the things of God’s Word are the concerns of salvation, eternal life, the glory of God, and the coming of His kingdom.
Not only the behavior but the conversation of the covenant home will show to children from day to day how husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers, must behave in a truly covenant home, how each must honor and respect, support and encourage, influence and direct the other.
The daily conversation in the home will clearly indicate what is most important in the home and for our families. If all we talk about is sports or adventure, or the next purchases we will make in order to make our homes more luxurious or to enable us to spend our lives in more and more earthly pleasure and excitement, our children will grow up with the imagination that these are the most important matters in life. This conversation will definitely impact the thinking of our children. The conversation of the covenant home can help make the members of that home carnal and worldly, covetous and materialistic—or truly godly and distinctly different from the world.
Inevitably there will be times in the course of the life of our covenant homes that discussions will be had about world events. In some homes, whether good or bad, everyday news events will play a large part in the daily conversation of the family. Father will impart to his covenant children his own perspective on events taking place in the world in which he lives. He will often do this almost without realizing it. When world events are the subject of conversation in the home, these are occasions for us as parents to teach our children a true biblical and Reformed world and life outlook. Necessary judgments must be made that often will mold the thinking and perspective of our children. Even the world recognizes that this will happen in the normal course of life in the home. In our covenant home this is far more important. In the course of conversation on all these subjects, we must mold and shape the values, opinions, and outlook on life for our children. All must be from the perspective of the fear of God and the keeping of His commandments in our daily life. In the daily conversation of the covenant home, our children will learn their own purpose and calling and perspective in life.
The attitude we have towards our material possessions, whether we are truly thankful to God for them, and how we use the possessions that God gives us, will influence our children. Moses warns concerning the grave danger of forgetting God in the days of material prosperity. It should be the case that the more abundance we have, the greater reason we have for thanksgiving to God. But because of our natural sinfulness and proneness to covetousness and materialism, this is not reality. Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 8: “When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware lest thou forget the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day” (vv. 10, 11). Moses continues in the succeeding verses to give detailed instruction regarding this. The perspective that we have on the wealth that God has given us will inevitably be revealed in the daily conversation of our covenant homes, and our children will learn how they themselves must view material possessions in their own lives and future homes.
The attitude we have toward the church of the Lord, the work of the officebearers, and the happenings in the lives of the members of this church will and must be the subject of our daily conversations in the home. Our conversations in the home must reveal that we love the church of God and that we love the truth that is preached and maintained there. This ought to be a very important part of daily conversation in the home. The Sunday sermons should regularly be discussed in the home. The glorious, comforting, and blessed doctrines that the church preaches and maintains should in a very natural and spontaneous way be often discussed in our home. This can of course be done in a very evil way, a way that will result in children having wrong and sinful ideas regarding the church. This can and should be done in the fear of God, to foster love and concern for the church and her ministry. There ought to be conversations in our homes about the fellow members of the church. These conversations can take on the character of gossip and evil judgments of fellow saints. Or these conversations can reflect hearty concern for fellow saints and an interest and compassion for them in the trials they face and the burdens they bear in life. The conversations of the covenant home can and must foster the communion of the saints and practical love and concern for them. How many things happen regularly from week to week in the church: marriages, baptism, sickness, trials, some very severe, and loss of loved ones through death! The conversations in our covenant home will teach our children the proper, godly perspective on these events.
How we should pray that all our conversation in the home might be truly godly and serve for the building up of our home, the molding of the lives of our children, and the glory of God.