The Second Midweek in Lent
March 3-4, 2009
Text: Exodus 20:12
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we resume our series on the Ten Commandments, it is perhaps important to consider what we have learned in First Table of the Law. All sins are violations of the First Commandment. We sin because we do not fear, love and trust in God above all things. Second, the law serves a threefold purpose. But the purpose that is always of most concern to us is the second use of the law - that is the law as a mirror to show us our sins.
The Ten Commandments, as we have often noted, don’t naturally fit into ten comments. Organizing them into Ten Commands is structure that has been imposed upon Exodus 20. This why there are several different versions of the Ten Commandments. They’re all taken from Exodus 20 and simply organized in different ways. But early on there was also a twofold organization of the law. Christ even acknowledges this when He quotes a verse from Deuteronomy that had become the Rabbinic summary of the law - Love the Lord your God will all your mind, all heart and all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. So the first half of the law, which we considered in Advent is about our relationship with God. The second half, which we will now consider, is about relationship with our fellow man.
The Fourth Commandment is normally placed in the second table of the Law, but it really serves as a transition. For it is the house father that is to see that his children are brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The father in particular acts as God’s representative in the home. He is to be a mirror of our heavenly Father. It is well that we make note of the fact that children who are abused by their earthly fathers often have a hard time trusting in God the Father.
What is it that we are commanded in the Fourth Commandment. We are to obey our parents, right? No. That’s that what is says. We are to honor our parents and this also then extends to other authorities. A school teacher acts in loco parentes - that is in place of the parent. Kings historically presented themselves as the father of their nation and called their subjects their children. But lets get back to the verb, that is the action here. We are to honor them. What does that mean? It’s a little more slippery and a little harder to quantify.
Consider this rather horrific example. A father has a teenage son and daughter. He commands the son to have sexual relations with his sister. Now, how do these two children honor their father? By refusing to obey him. If necessary by calling the police or other authorities to intervene. One might say how is having your own father carted off to jail honoring him? But it is when it is preventing some evil. Honor is about doing what is good and right. Many times, for children, it means to obey. But regardless of everything else, one honors their father and mother when they do that which is right.
Even as adults, we are bring honor to our parents. We are live our lives in such a way that it bring credit and praise to our parents. Nor does this end when our parents die. We honor their memory by continuing to do right. This extends even to how our parents are treated in death. Do we make certain that they have a proper funeral? Do we make certain their grave is proper marked and tended, and so forth? One of the scourges of a mobile society is that many people no longer live in the communities where their parents are buried. In these things we honor our parents.
What about matters of religion? What if our parents, particularly our fathers were rank unbelievers? First that we must say that they clung to that which is false. Honoring our parents is never about rewriting the past. So we must be honest. But then we, who know the truth of Jesus Christ, cling that truth. Though our parents might not think this is honoring them, it is. It is honoring them because we are clinging to the truth of God’s Word. You see honoring someone is not about what they feel, emotionally, is an honor. It is an objective thing. You are objectively bringing honor to their name. So a Christian who is the child of rank unbelievers fulfills the Fourth Commandment by remaining a faithful believer.
As in all the Commandments, the Fourth Commandment is an expression of God’s will for our lives. We show love for God and our parents by bringing honor to their name. But we also understand that no matter how hard we seek to do this, we will always fall short. We can never do perfectly, with a perfect hart, all that is required of us. The best we can do is a superficial, outward fulfillment. When we see this, the Fourth Commandment has become God’s mirror showing us our sins. Only Christ fulfills the law perfectly. He did that in our place. In the cross, He makes His obedience our obedience. And so for us, The Fourth Commandment, as well as all the comments, makes us flee to the cross. For there our sins were covered.