Right after God commands the “entire Israelite community” to be holy in Leviticus 19:2, the very next thing He mentions in describing what holiness encompasses, is this…
Leviticus 19:3a (HCSB)
“Each of you is to respect his mother and father.”
I find it interesting that this comes prior to Sabbath keeping and idolatry…
Leviticus 19:3-4 (HCSB)
“Each of you is to respect his mother and father. You are to keep My Sabbaths; I am Yahweh your God. Do not turn to idols or make cast images of gods for yourselves; I am Yahweh your God.”
Does this necessarily mean that respecting parents in the Old Covenant is more important than the keeping of the sign of the Old Covenant (the Sabbath) or the keeping of the command to not be an idolator?
I won’t go that far.
The fact that respecting parents is mentioned first reveals something about how important it is to God. I mean, even though I’m not a member of the Old Covenant, the fact that God mentions parental respect first (when describing what holiness looks like in the Old Covenant) is quite telling. Parental respect is obviously of the basics of an Old Covenant, holy life.
In the era where the Old Covenant was aging out, the apostle Paul emphasized how important parental respect had always been, since the creation of the world (which was obviously before the Old Covenant was even established).
In Romans 1, he included being “disobedient to parents” with a list of other ungodly behaviors, which are done by those of all eras who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…
Romans 1:18-32 (HCSB)
“For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The males in the same way also left natural relations with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.
And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know full well God’s just sentence — that those who practice such things deserve to die — they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.”
Paul had even warned Timothy about this in a similar fashion…
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (HCSB)
“But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!”
Being disobedient to parents is a big deal to God, whether one was of the Old Covenant, the New Covenant, or of neither covenant. In other words, with regards to those who are disobedient to parents, as Paul put it, “Avoid these people!”
What got me thinking about this was something that my pastor came across and shared in a sermon.
“Fifty years ago, parents were more apt to having many children. Today, children are more apt to having many parents.”
It’s a powerful observation.
Today, at least here in America, this is very true. The apathetic posture of our culture has made it even more difficult for our children to obey their parents. With so many parents, as a result of broken homes, remarriage, and the legal establishment of non-Biblical marriages, who are they to obey? Unfortunately, the first thing which God mentioned, when describing what holiness looked like in the Old Covenant, is now not even feasible for so many children.
Paul wrote in other places about the importance of being obedient to parents. To the Ephesians, he drew out this important principle from the Old Covenant law, for those of the New Covenant to adhere to. (The Old Covenant stipulation and promise is in italics)…
Ephesians 6:1-3 (HCSB)
“Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.”
In the New Covenant, only the obedience to parents part applies. There no longer exists a promise to have a long life as an Old Covenant member in the Old Covenant land. As we learn from Hebrews, that covenant disappeared almost 2,000 years ago…
Hebrews 8:13 (HCSB)
“By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.”
To the Colossians, Paul gave the same principle that he gave to the Ephesians regarding obedience to parents without the Old Covenant law reference.
Colossians 3:20 (HCSB)
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
The interesting thing about the principle to obey parents, which Paul wrote about to both the Church in Ephesus and also to the Church in Colossea, is what he also wrote to each of those churches directly after…
Ephesians 6:1-4 (HCSB)
“Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Colossians 3:20-21 (HCSB)
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.”
The question we (Christians) must ask ourselves is…
Are we contributing to our children’s anger and exasperation, by giving them more parents to obey than whom God commands them to obey?
Godspeed, to the brethren!