We have seen from the beginning of our discussion of the theme of the fear of the Lord how very fundamental it is. The fear of the Lord is the very heart of true godliness and Christianity. The fear of the Lord must be the dominating and controlling motive of all our life as the people of God. We have emphasized also that the fear of the Lord must begin in our homes. We must establish our homes in the fear of the Lord and continue to live daily in that fear of the Lord. A very important part of living in the fear of God in our homes of course is that we also instruct the children which the Lord gives to us in that fear of the Lord.
As Reformed people we know the blessed truth that God is a covenant God. He is our God and the God of our children after us. He keeps covenant from generation to generation. God is pleased to continue His covenant in the line of our generations as we faithfully and diligently instruct our children. Exactly because God is the one Who gives us covenant children and because He has promised to be the God of our children after us, we must with fear and trembling fulfill our covenant obligation to nurture our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We must teach our children about Jehovah their God and the God of their fathers before them. We must teach them to worship and serve this Jehovah God, to obey His commandments and to glorify Him in all of life. Fundamental to all of this is that we instill in them the fear of the Lord. A true godly life can come forth only out of a heart that fears God. To teach our children merely formally and objectively the doctrines and commandments of scripture is not enough. We must instill in the hearts and souls of our children the fear of the Lord their God.
To teach our children the fear of the Lord we must teach them who and what Jehovah God is. A profound spiritual knowledge of God is one of the chief parts of the fear of the Lord. We must teach them that God is the Sovereign God of heaven and earth Who created all things and Who rules sovereignly over all and demands the obedience and service of all His creatures. We must teach them that this God lives today and is our sovereign Lord. We must teach our children of the wonderful gracious covenant of God according to which He of sovereign grace alone purposed to choose His people as His own and to establish and continue His covenant with them. We must teach our children of the sovereign almighty power of God and how He alone by that sovereign power is the God of our salvation. We must teach our children of the perfect holiness and righteousness of God. We must teach them that God is so holy and so righteous that He cannot suffer sin to go unpunished. We must teach them that He is so fearfully holy that He is a consuming fire to all the workers of iniquity. His wrath is revealed from heaven against all of the unrighteousness of men. We must teach them that God is so holy and just that He casts the sinner into everlasting hell. We must teach our children that it is only because of sovereign grace and because of the wonderful work of God in Christ Jesus that we are saved from His holy, just wrath and made heirs of eternal life and blessing. These are the things that will instill in them by the grace and Spirit of God the fear of the Lord. We must teach them all that God is in His infinite perfection, goodness, and greatness. We must in no way hide from them the true knowledge of God. Above all we must not tell them the lies of modernism and Arminianism which teach that God is a God who winks at sin and who loves all men.
We have a most beautiful example of proper instruction of children in the fear of the Lord in Psalm 78. We cannot of course quote this long Psalm here. But notice what the Psalmist tells us to tell our children. We must show to the generations to come “the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.” From there on, the Psalmist goes on to recount all of the mighty wonders which the Lord performed for His people Israel to save them, to bring them out of Egypt through the wilderness and to the land of promise. He tells of the wonderful faithfulness and longsuffering mercy of God. All this the Psalmist makes mention of in order to cause his people to remember how great and how wonderful their God is. This must be the manner in which we teach our children the history of the scriptures. We must not teach that history as nothing more than good stories. We must show our children from all of this history the sovereign greatness and wonderful goodness of their God.
We must teach our children the perfect obedience which the Lord requires of His people. We must teach them the sovereign law of the Lord that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. We must teach our children that the Lord is displeased with every transgression of the law. He is so righteous and holy that He cannot merely ignore sin or pass it over. He is a God Who is jealous for His own holiness and righteousness, Who by no means clears the guilty but Who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of all that hate Him. We must not in any way minimize the requirements of God’s holy law or tell our children that transgression of the law is not so serious.
If we turn again to Psalm 78 we will find the Psalmist makes mention again and again of the sin and apostasy of Israel. The Psalmist recalls the dreadful consequences of that apostasy for Israel as they came under the anger and chastening of the Lord. If we are to teach our children the fear of the Lord we must teach them the dreadfulness of sin and the awfulness of the holy wrath of God. We must not teach them in any way to take a complacent attitude about sin. We must teach them how God is grieved by the sins of His people and how sin brings upon His people the chastening rod of the Lord. We must warn our childrenagain and again of the awful judgment and wrath of God upon the ungodly. The scriptures are full of warnings of God’s judgment. Let us not read them to our children as though they are nothing more than past history. Let us use the scripture to warn earnestly our children, that they might fear the Lord and not come under the judgment of wicked and apostate Israel.
We must exhort our children from His word to flee the just wrath of God which is from their very birth upon them, to flee to the sovereign forgiving mercy of God. We must teach them daily to go to the cross with their sins as the only ground of righteousness and forgiveness. We must urge our children daily to implore the forgiving mercy and grace of God.
We must teach our children their own hopeless condition in the sight of God. We must teach them that of ourselves we are worthy of hell and we are so in bondage to corruption that we can do nothing whatsoever to escape death and everlasting condemnation. We must teach our children to put their hope and their trust alone in Jehovah the almighty God of salvation. We must tell them daily that there is to be found salvation in none other save in God and in His Christ. Therefore we must teach them to fear the Lord and trust in Him alone.
Not only must we teach our children the fear of the Lord by teaching them from God’s Word that God is a God to be feared. We must also teach them what true godly fear is by our example. All our instruction will mean nothing if it is not reinforced by the example of our own godfearing life. We must strive to let the fear of God reign in all life in our homes.
There is of course no end to the examples of what this means. Let us consider just a few of them as space allows. There is first of all the basic matter of the centrality of the Word of God in our homes. How often is the Word of God read in our homes? How much time is spent in reading the Word of God? How much zeal and effort are spent on reading and studying the Word of God and how much is spent on other things such as watching television or engaging in other entertainment? One could compare the excitement that is evident in the home with the Word of God and with other things such as sports or cars, or nice houses or clothes. What kind of example are we setting for our children if we spend more time watching television than we do studying the Word of God or if we are far more interested and excited about the outcome of the world series than we are about learning the wonderful truths of God?
How is the Lord’s day observed in our homes? Is the Lord’s day kept holy? Do we go to church as the Lord gives us opportunity? Why do we go to the house of the Lord? Is it evident that we do this merely out of form and custom, or do we do this because we fear the Lord our God and know our calling to worship and serve Him in His house? Is it for us a burden to go to the Lord’s house, or do we go with eagerness to hear the Word of the Lord our God? If we are to instill in our children the fear of -the Lord, we must reveal that the true worship of God is to be central in our lives.
How is sin dealt with in our homes? When father or mother commits sin is there a going on the knees and a pleading for forgiveness, or do mother and father give the impression that sin is not so serious and that it can easily be forgotten? Do mother and father reveal in their own life that they have a profound sense of the grievous character’ of their sin before God?
What about when children disobey their parents and sin against God? Do the parents simply ignore this? Do the parents merely react to disobedience of their children because it is an offense against them? If we are to instill in our children the fear of the Lord we must tell them of the seriousness of sin in the sight of God. We must take the time and the effort to do this. What about the whole matter of prayer in the home? Is our family truly a family that prays together? Can the fear of God be heard in the prayers, in what we pray for and how we pray, or are they merely the repetition of the same words everyday and is it evident that we simply pray out of form? Do we set an example of giving thanks unto the Lord for all the things that He has given us? Do we know how to bring earnestly our families to the throne of God’s grace, unto the God Whom we need every day, in Whom lies all our strength and help and salvation?
How do father and mother live with each other in the home? Does ‘father take up his place as the head of the home and rule the home according to the Word of God in the fear of the Lord? Does mother labor faithfully in the home in her God ordained place because she knows that this is her calling before God, or is mother led away by the wicked philosophy of women’s liberation to forsake her calling in the home for worldly fame and fortune?
How is the money of the family spent? Do father and mother give an example of good stewardship to their children? Do they teach their children that all that they have is given to them by the Lord God? Do they teach their children that they must give an account for all that God has given to them? How much is given to the church? Is the home filled with all manner of luxuries while father and mother give meagerly to the cause of God’s kingdom? Is it evident from how much we give and how we give it that our central concern is not with the things of this world but with the kingdom of God?
How does father carry out his occupation? Does he do it for the glory of God, or for wealth and glory among men? Is father willing to suffer loss even of all things for righteousness’ sake? Is the righteousness of God the most important thing in all that he does even in his daily occupation?
We could of course go on and on with such questions. How urgent that we examine each and every area of our life as parents. We are the examples for our children. We must teach them by our every example what it really means to fear God. Ours is a world where there is no fear of God. God has ordained that our homes are the place where our children learn by instruction and example the fear of the Lord.