Rev. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Moses is addressing the people of Israel in the plains of Moab. Soon Israel will enter into the land of promise.
Moses reminds Israel of the covenant which God established with them at Mount Sinai through the giving of the law. In that connection Moses recites the Ten Commandments in the ears of Israel. He also mentions the other laws given at Mount Sinai.
Moses then proceeds to charge Israel to observe all these commandments in the land they are about to possess, that it may be well with them.
These commandments must be in their hearts, so that they teach them diligently to their children. How important this is! God’s covenant is also with Israel’s children. These children, therefore, must be instructed in the law of the covenant, that they may learn to keep God’s covenant.
The same is true of our children. God’s covenant is with believing parents and their children. For that reason, covenant parents must instruct their children in the glorious realities of the covenant.
Christian schools have been formed and maintained to assist parents in this all-important work.
With another school year upon us and with all the sacrifices necessary to maintain our Christian schools, it is well that we are reminded of the command of God to instruct children in the law of His covenant.
“And these words, which I command thee this day . . . .”
These words were the words of the law God gave to Israel at Mount Sinai. “These words” included the Ten Commandments inscribed by God’s finger on tables of stone, often called the moral law. “These words” included also the civil laws that organized Israel into a nation and regulated its life as a nation. Included in these words were also the ceremonial laws which instructed Israel how to worship God around the tabernacle with the priests, the offerings, and the various feast days.
These laws were God’s covenant with Israel.
According to the promise which God made before this to Abraham and his seed, God’s covenant was with Israel. This covenant was a relationship of friendship and fellowship between Jehovah and Israel in which Jehovah was Israel’s God and Israel was His people.
At the heart of this covenant were the multitude of laws given at Mount Sinai. So essential were these laws to the covenant, that Moses indicates in the previous chapter that God made His covenant with Israel through the giving of these laws. Consequently, when Israel kept these laws they kept God’s covenant; when they transgressed these laws they transgressed the covenant.
These laws were essential to God’s covenant because they showed Israel the way of salvation. The tabernacle worship required by the ceremonial laws portrayed very graphically to Israel the great salvation that was to come through the promised Savior. The kingdom into which Israel was formed through the civil laws served as a picture of the kingdom of heaven that was to come. The moral laws (Ten Commandments) served a twofold purpose. First, they showed Israel her sin and her need for Gold’s Savior. But, secondly, when Israel found salvation at the house of God through the priests and sacrifices, the moral law served as the rule of gratitude, pointing out to Israel how she must show her thankfulness for her salvation.
And so it was that, through the laws of Mount Sinai, Old Testament Israel was instructed in the salvation of God’s covenant, was able to enjoy that salvation, and thus lived a covenant life of friendship with God.
In these great realities of the law and God’s covenant, Israel’s children must be taught. And these words, which I command thee this day . . . thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.
The children in Israel must not merely be taught the laws given at Mount Sinai. They must also be taught the realities of salvation and of the covenant which these laws revealed.
This was the solemn obligation of every parent in Israel.
The same command is laid at the feet of believing parents today.
The same covenant which God had with Israel continues today with believing parents and their children. The form the covenant takes today is much different from what it was in Israel’s day. So much is this true that the Bible speaks of a new covenant in distinction from the old. Yet the essence of these two covenants is the same.
The difference between the old and new covenants is to be explained primarily by the fact that Christ has come and brought into being the great realities of the covenant which were only pictured in the law of the old covenant. Through His atoning death on the cross, His resurrection, exaltation on God’s right hand and sending forth of the Spirit of Pentecost, Jesus has obtained the salvation of the church and established the great kingdom of heaven. Hence, the civil and ceremonial laws of Mount Sinai, which only pictured these realities, fall away.
Besides, God’s covenant is no more limited to the natural descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel. With the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s covenant and its salvation is brought to the nations. God’s covenant is with believers and their seed of every race.
Yet the essence of the old covenant with Israel still remains. The covenant which God has with the church today is a most wonderful relationship of friendship and fellowship between God and the church in Jesus Christ, in which relationship He is their God and they are His people. In this covenant the church finds a most blessed salvation in Jesus Christ, a salvation which manifests itself in a life of loving service to God according to the Ten Commandments.
In these glorious realities of the covenant, as revealed in the whole of Scripture, parents are to instruct their children, even as the parents of Old Testament Israel were to instruct their children in these same realities pictured in the Old Testament law.
Moses has something to say about how these things are to be taught to the children of the covenant.
They are to be taught diligently.
The meaning is that this instruction must be constant and thorough. Parents must daily instruct their children in the realities of God’s covenant and salvation. And this instruction must be in every aspect of God’s covenant.
This idea is reinforced by the command to talk of these things with our children when we sit in our house, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise up.
This describes a situation in which parents are with their children all day. They sit with them at meal time. They walk with them to the fields to work. They lie down next to them at night and rise with them in the morning. This was the kind of family life Israel enjoyed in Canaan. Sorry to say, much of this is lost in our modem society. It is important nevertheless that as parents we strive to be with our children as much as possible.
During all these activities with our children, we as parents are to instruct our children in the realities of the covenant. We are to instruct them when they work as well as when they play; when they rise in the morning as well as when they retire in the evening; when they sit down to eat as well as when they get up to do the dishes. At all times they are to be instructed in the realities of the covenant.
This instruction must not be divorced from the activity at hand but must be applied to whatever parents find their children doing. The Word of God has something to say about every area of our life and how it relates to our covenant relationship to God. The Word of God has something to say about our work, our recreation, our eating, our counting our spelling, our reading. It has something to say about history, the origin of the universe, the stars in the heaven. The command to parents is to bring the light of God’s covenant word to bear on every activity of their children, so that their children understand how the whole of their life and all their learning relates to God’s covenant of grace.
Christian schools have been formed to assist parents in this all important task.
We live in a day when parents are ordinarily not qualified to instruct their children in every area of learning necessary to make their way in life and live on the earth as responsible citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Consequently, covenant parents (as well as grandparents and other members of God’s covenant) have established and maintained Christian schools in which children of the covenant are taught various disciplines from the viewpoint of God’s covenant. These schools are not designed to take the place of covenantal instruction in the home, but only to assist covenant parents in these areas where parents are ordinarily not qualified to teach their children.
What a great blessing the Christian schools have been for the covenant home!
Let us thank God for our Christian schools!
Let us support them financially and in our prayers!
Let us as covenant parents also send our children to them!
For parents to be faithful to this requirement of God’s covenant, the word of the covenant must be in their heart.
What a great deal of time and energy is required on the part of parents to instruct their children in the realities of the covenant as it touches on every aspect of life!
What a great financial sacrifice is often required on the part of parents to send their children to the Christian school to have their children instructed in areas where the parents are not qualified to teach!
Such an effort and sacrifice will be made only by those who have the word of the covenant in their hearts.
To have the word of the covenant in your heart means that the Word of God concerning the covenant is very dear to you. You love and cherish it. It is that which you treasure most of all.
The word of God’s covenant is in the heart of every true covenant parent. God’s covenant grace places that word in his heart.
However, this is something in which we all must grow and develop. We do this by spending much time with God’s covenant word and prayer.
May God lead us in these things and bless our precious children as they begin again another year of covenant instruction in the Christian school!