Opening Prayer: Father, we are in need of your teaching, your instruction, and your direction. We do not know how to honor our parents as we ought, and we recognize that this is because we have not honored you and your church as we ought. Teach us how to bestow honor on those fathers and mothers you have placed over us; give us hearts that are ready and willing to accept your instruction. In the name of Jesus your Son, Amen!
We considered last week the fact that the first “father and mother” are God and the Christian Church he has placed us in. Secondly, these foundational authorities establish the legitimacy of a number of other formal authorities: civil, educational, business, and many others informally. Recognizing that all of these authorities require our honor, it is necessary to consider what honor is and how it is bestowed.
The word “honor” is synonymous with “glory” which means to make heavy and weighty. Abram comes out of Egypt “very glorious” with silver, gold, riches, and livestock (Gen. 13:2). This can refer to the severity of natural disasters like a famine (Gen. 12:10) or evil things like the wickedness of Sodom (Gen. 18:20). Jacob’s eyes are said to be “heavy” with old age (Gen. 48:10), and Moses says that his mouth and tongue are too heavy to speak well (Ex. 4:10). Pharaoh’s heart is hardened or perhaps “weighed down” would be a better translation (Ex. 7:14 et passim). Some of the plagues on Egypt are described as heavy (e.g. 8:20, 9:3, 9:18). Strikingly, after Pharaoh has “glorified/hardened” his heart and Yahweh has sent “glory-plagues” upon Egypt, Yahweh finally asserts that he will get “glory” over Pharaoh in the victory of the Red Sea (14:4, 17-18). The priests are given heavy vestments of “glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:2). While the glory of God is something beyond us, God over and over again embodies his glory through natural disasters, supernatural events, riches, and people. In the NT, honor means price or worth: Jesus has no “honor” in his hometown, and he is sold for the “honor” of 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 27:6-7, Jn. 4:44). The honor that the Church ought show to widows includes financial support (1 Tim. 5:3-16). Honoring is the act of seeking to embody another’s worth.
Giving and Heeding Instructions
Honor is built into parent-child relationships because of the Trinity (Jn. 8:49, 54). Jesus says that he honors his Father by knowing him and keeping his word (8:55). Jesus honors his Father by obeying his commands: for he came not to do his will, but the will of his Father (Jn. 5:30). But Jesus applies this to his disciples saying that the Father is glorified in the Son when they ask for things from the Father in the Name of the Son (14:13). In other words, because the honor that the Son bestows upon the Father is principally being the Father for the world (14:9-11), it becomes the Father’s honor to bestow gifts upon those who ask things in the name of His Son. This is also why teaching and learning are significant parts of the parent-children relationship. This is evidenced in the Proverbs (Pr. 1:8, 10, 15, etc.) and in the relationships we noted last week in Elijah/Elisha and Paul/Timothy. Instructions are not limited to verbal commands and exhortations. Instruction includes the host of lessons we teach with our actions. We noted previously that the “image and likeness” of God was evidence of God’s intention for Adam to be his son. This image and likeness is being renewed in us, fallen creatures. The apostle encourages Christians to be imitators of God as dearly loved children (Eph. 5:1), he encourages them to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1, Phil. 4:9), and he encourage them to imitate each other, striving for like-mindedness (Rom. 15:5, Phil. 2:2, 20, Heb. 6:12, 3 Jn. 1:11). Imitation always occurs; it’s just a question of who you are imitating. The fools on television and in the magazines who tell you to “be different” mean that you ought to shop in their stores like everyone else. Godly instruction and imitation also establishes the biblical pattern of tradition. Christians ought to love and cherish biblical tradition (cf. apostolic tradition, 2 Thess. 3:6, 14). Thus, children must obey their parents in the Lord (Eph. 6:1). Paul’s exhortation suggests two things: first, Children need to know that their obedience to their parents is counted as obedience to the Lord Jesus (Eph. 6:5-6, cf. 1 Pet. 2:13). Children must obey their parents as obedience to the Lord, and rebellion against that authority is rebellion against the Lord. Secondly, in the Lord establishes limitations on all authority. Because your allegiance is to King Jesus, if a lawful authority instructs you to disobey Jesus, you must not (e.g. Acts 4:19-20).
Conclusions & Applications
Children need to be taught to honor their parents, and this is not an act of selfishness. Teaching children to honor and obey their parents is teaching them how to honor and obey God. Refusal is rebellion. This means teaching obedience that is immediate, complete, and cheerful. Fathers, in particular, you need to teach your sons to honor their mothers. It is notable that at least twice the order of “father and mother” is reversed most probably to emphasize this very fact (Lev. 19:3, 21:2). The fact is likewise reinforced by the civil penalties for rebellion and cursing one’s parents (Ex. 21:17, Dt. 21:18-21). It’s not as if cursing or disobeying mom is any less offensive than cursing or disobeying dad. This means holding doors, standing when a woman enters the room, saying ‘yes ma’am’, waiting for mother to sit down before sitting, waiting for mother to eat before eating, pushing in their chairs, etc. It’s not enough merely to not openly rebel or curse your mother; the weight of glory must be lived out; their worth must be embodied.
Some of you need to start honoring your parents by confessing the sin of not honoring them. Remember Achan (Josh. 7:19). Perhaps you have dishonored your parents by rolling your eyes, disregarding their counsel, or just skating by, barely avoiding trouble. Remember that God requires you to esteem them highly; honor means glory and weight.
Finally, we need to recognize that God does not put any exceptions in the Fifth Commandment. Honoring (with faith in the God who sees) is actually the way that God bestows honor. Glory is reciprocal; it shares in the glory of the Trinity.
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty and glorious Father, we bless you and glorify you now. We proclaim that you are holy, just, good, and true. We ask that you would teach us to honor our fathers and mothers as you teach us to honor you. Do this for your glory and honor.