Deuteronomy 6 is the hub of this sermon that Moses is preaching to the people of Israel as they are about to enter into the promised land. Moses has proclaimed the greatest command as confirmed by Jesus. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:5). All of the laws that God gave hung on this truth. God wants our hearts and commanded Israel to put God’s words to them in their hearts (6:6). God further declared that the purpose for these laws was for Israel’s good (6:2-3). All of God’s laws are for our good just as good parents give rules for the good of the children. So Moses declares the need for the people, if they desire to enter the promised land and enjoy the rest God is offering, to have God’s law in their hearts and love God with all their hearts. But how are we to get these words in our hearts? Moses gives a very important directive in verses 7-9.
Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7–9 CSB)
I am using the CSB because the phrase “teach your children” in Hebrew carries to meaning “to repeat” according to the NET notes and other commentators. The image is that by repetition we are engraving these words on the hearts of our children. The imagery employed by the NIV is also helpful. “Impress them on your children.” We are pushing the laws of the Lord into the hearts through repetition. Consider that this is not only how we do this with our children, but also with ourselves. Repetition is how we impress God’s word into our hearts. To know the Lord our God and love him from the heart requires the knowledge of God to be impressed into us through repetition.
Where To Teach (6:7-9)
This repetition is expressed in verses 7-9. Talk about God’s laws when you sit in your house. Do we sit in our homes? Of course we do. What do we do when we are sitting in our homes? Unfortunately, many families sit on our their devices when at home. Many families do not eat together or spend time together face to face so that there can be conversation about the teachings of God. Parents are called to have Bible studies with their children. Teach them biblical concepts and principles. Teach them how to read the Bible. Teach them what God says.
Further, Moses says to talk about God’s laws when you walk along the road. Do we travel in our cars with our kids? Of course we do. What do we talk about when we are in the car? Unfortunately, it is common for families to again be plugged into their devices rather than talking about the things of God. When I was a kid, every time we drove to LA from San Diego for family gatherings, my dad would ask Bible questions, starting in Genesis and working his way all the way through into the New Testament. I did the same thing with my kids on road trips. We did this on one of our road trips with the extended family around Yellowstone and Montana. Take the opportunity when traveling to talk about God to your kids.
Teach your children when you get up and when go to bed. Think about what we can say to our children about God as they get ready to go to school. Remember who you are as a disciple of Jesus. Remember what God has called you to be. At the end of the day, talk about their day and know what is going on in the lives of your children so that you can inform them about what God desires for them.
Further, bind God’s laws on your hand and on your forehead. Always have God’s law before your eyes and remember what God has taught you. In our terms, we would say to always have a Bible with you. We would say to be thinking about God’s laws and God’s ways. Think and meditate on the scriptures during your day. God should always be on our minds and before our faces.
Finally, write them on the doorposts and on the gates. The home must show the importance of God. The home will reflect lives lived for God. The home will be saturated with the love of God. As parents we will always show that God is of the utmost importance. God is always second to none and worship of God is never second place. God is never second to school, to work, to hobbies, to activities, to sports, to community service, or any other activity that may try to interfere. God is above all else. I missed many little league games, meet your teacher nights, and other activities because we worship God before any of those things. We sometimes try to look at it by asking the question if God really cares if we make this decision one time or on occasion. But what is failed to be considered is the message sent to the children. What are you telling your children when homework gets priority or work gets priority, or girl scouts gets priority, or school gets priority, or baseball gets priority, or the like? That is what we must consider if we are going to impress the teachings of the Lord into the heart of our children.
It is the job of every mother and father to impress into the hearts of the children the words of God through repetition. One can easily see the critical role that the mother plays in this activity. The father will have far less exposure to the child than the mother because of work. The father must set this leadership in the home and the mother must carry out this directive. Parenting does not fall on only one person. Both mother and father are directly involved and critical to the impressing of the ways of God upon the child. I will state as an implied aside that if the mother and father must be on the same page for this to be a success. One parent cannot undermine the other parent. One parent cannot establish the importance of God and the other parent not establish that importance. Inconsistency will destroy the ability to truly impress God on the hearts of the children.
Show God’s Radical Blessings (6:10-19)
Now the teaching is not done. In verses 10-19 God reminds the people that everything they are given would be given to them by God. Why say this here? I want you to notice that we have not left the putting of God in our hearts and teaching our children because in verse 20 Moses returns to what to teach the children. So why do we need the reminder about the blessings that God has given to each of us? We must learn for ourselves and teach our children that everything we have comes from God. The warning is stated in verses 11-12. Do not forget the Lord when you eat and are full. You will be satisfied by God and the temptation will be to forget God. This is the great temptation from God’s blessings. We take all of God’s blessings and become satisfied so that we forget the Lord.
We are in grave danger of this every day for we have such great prosperity. We have been given great wealth and blessings from God. Do we teach our children that everything we have is a gift of God? Or do we indicate to them that we are the ones who provide? We must not allow satisfaction to lead for forgetfulness. We must allow satisfaction to cause our children to forget because this is exactly what happened to the next generation of Israel when they entered the land of Canaan. They did not know the Lord, according to the opening pages of the book of Judges. They forgot and did not have the Lord impressed on their hearts.
We need to think about how we reflect this as parents to our children. God wanted gratefulness and recognition that it all came from God as blessings. We need to reflect this to our children as we raise them. We do not bless ungratefulness and rebellion, just as God did not bless Israel for their ungratefulness or rebellion. These gifts and blessings are not owed to you. God gives out of his gracious heart to his people and he expected them to honor him and remember him. In the same way we teach our children to do likewise toward us as parents to be honored and respected for what we have done for them but also to God who has blessed us parents so that we can bless our children.
What To Teach Your Children (6:20-25)
Moses finally speaks of a time when your children are going to ask the meaning of statutes and rules that the Lord has commanded. They are going to ask why we are doing what we are doing. In the beginning we teach our children to do certain things. But as they get older we must explain to them why we are doing this. Moses highlights the importance of deliberate strategies for transmitting faith. Faith does not happen by accident. Nor does faith happen by bringing them to assemblies or classes. Notice that the command was not that they would bring their children to the priests for teaching. Parents must transmit their faith.
Your children are going to ask why. They are going to ask why we have to obey. They are going to ask why we are doing this. Why do we worship? Why do we obey? Why do we go to bible studies? Why do we do good to others? Why do we keep God’s laws? Notice that Moses does not say to enforce unquestioned obedience. Let them ask and we must explain. So what should we explain. Look at verses 21-25. First, we tell them that we obey because of all that God has done for us (6:21-22). We must share with our children the mercy and grace of God. We teach them about the cross of Jesus and what that means for us. We teach them how we were slaves in sin and how God brought us out of this slavery by a mighty hand. We tell them about the hope of eternity that we are looking forward to because of God’s rescue. We speak of all the good that God has done and continues to do for us. We share that good news with our children.
Second, we teach them about God’s faithfulness (6:23-24). God has done what he has promised. He promised to rescue us and bless us and God always keeps his word. God always does what he says. So what we read in God’s word is something that we can depend upon for our lives. God gives us hope. God gives us help. God gives us all that we need. He is faithful to do this.
Third, we teach our children that God’s commands are for our good (6:24-25). We never teach our children that we have to obey. We do not teach them that we have to go to church. We do not teach them that these are things that we do for the Lord out of obligation. We teach them to desire God. Let us never substitute the need for sacrificing all for following Jesus as meaning that we are sacrificing against our will. Consider the teaching of Jesus.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)
Please see that the person sells all that he has “in his joy.” It is his desire. He wants to give everything up for Jesus. This is what we must communicate. We want to make the sacrifices for the Lord. We want to put God first and make the job, school, hobbies, activities, and the like all second. In essence, we are doing because of what God did. We desire this because God says we will be counted righteous if we carefully keep his commands (6:25). The point is that obedience to God is the only right response to the saving acts of God. This is what we are teaching our children. This is what we are impressing on their hearts by repetition. We are careful with God’s law and we love God’s law because of what God has done for us, because his laws are for our good, because God is faithful to his word, and his commands are for our good and for our righteousness.
Moses declares how God’s words are to be on our hearts. We need God’s words impressed into our hearts through repetition. It is a picture to parents that raising children in the ways of the Lord does not happen by accident. The work is a careful, preplanned, and thoughtful training of the children. We do not simply hope they will grow out of their childishness or will somehow grow into spiritual maturity. Parents must establish the way the child must go, declaring and showing that path.
Essentially, God is calling for parents to be parents. Parents have been given direct authority by God to raise, train, instruct, discipline, and lead their children. If you do not have children or even if you do, use what Moses taught as the tools to impress God’s laws on your hearts so that you will love him and it will be righteousness to you. If you have children, use these tools as the way to impress God’s laws on their hearts so that they will love the Lord and it will be righteousness to them. Parents, we have no greater goal than to teach our children to know the Lord. We cannot save them. We cannot make them love God. But we can impress God upon them so they will understand who God is and have every opportunity to choose to love God. We must set them on the right path. But how difficult it will be for our children to find the right path if we do not start them down that path.