Having children has given me a deeper understanding of why God asks us to be obedient. We want our children to obey rules so they don’t get hurt or so they can succeed because we can usually see the bigger picture for them. And LIGHTBULB!! That is exactly how God feels about us! Understanding God’s commandments for ourselves helps us to refine our own standards and rules, as well as how we teach our own children those standards and rules. One of our new writers, Zach Horton (who just so happens to be my husband!), is explaining a little more about this today: How our our own obedience can help us better teach our children the principles we want them to learn.
When your child asks you that question, how do you usually respond? Have you ever used the popular, “Because”? Or maybe the much more explanatory, “Because I said so”? Maybe you prefer, “Just do it” or even, “Stop asking questions and just do it.” And yet, as illogical and emotional and erratic as children sometimes are, they have a point. Why should they obey?
Perhaps the best known story in the Old Testament about obedience comes from Genesis 22, where Abraham the patriarch is commanded to offer his birthright son Isaac for a sacrifice to God. We rightly regard Abraham with respect, even awe that anyone could be so loyal to such a difficult commandment. Truly, Abraham is a great example of trusting God to the point of absolute obedience.
But what about Isaac? Many images, both in paint and in imagination, depict Isaac as young and ignorant of the entire ordeal. However, even though Abraham called Isaac a “lad,” the Hebrew word connotes a young man probably in his thirties. Certainly Isaac would have had to have been strong enough to carry the wood up the mountain to the altar. These details combine to suggest that Isaac was older, stronger, and more aware than he’s often believed to be.
I believe this means that this isn’t just a story about Abraham’s obedience to God. It’s also a story about Isaac’s obedience to Abraham. A thirty-year old man can certainly fend off a man over one hundred. Isaac easily could have refused or rebelled, trailed back down the mountain, and severed his ties with his aged father forever. And yet, he didn’t. He obeyed. He must have known what was happening when Abraham asked him to lay down on the altar. He must have sensed the turmoil and incomprehensible grief as his father stood sobbing yet solid above him with knife in hand. And yet, Isaac obeyed.
Why? For one simple reason: the son trusted the father. My favorite two verses of the whole story are verses 7 and 8. Isaac looked at his father and said, with what I can only imagine was the most trust and love possible, “My father . . . [b]ehold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” When Abraham explained and Isaac understood the reality of the request that God had laid on their combined shoulders, the account reads, “so they went both of them together.” Only a father who was faithful and obedient could command the trust and obedience of his son when such a sacrifice was required.
Years later, another Son and another Father would experience a similar trial. When God Himself was called upon to offer His own Son as sacrifice for sin, we rightly reverence Him and His love for us. However, the plan would never be complete without the compliance of the Son. And He obeyed.
Why? For one simple reason: the Son trusted the Father. My favorite verse of this whole story comes from Mark 14. Jesus looked up at his Father and said, with what I can only imagine is the most trust and love possible, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.” We do not know the divine discussion that must have taken place between the Two in that sacred garden (see Luke 22:43), but once the Son understood the reality of the request that God had laid on their combined shoulders, He responded, “nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (v. 36). Only a Father who was faithful and obedient could command the trust and obedience of his Son when such a sacrifice was required.
The point? Obedience of the child demands trust in the parent; and trust of the child in the parent demands obedience of the parent to God. The only way to engender loving obedience in our children to the direction we are appointed (by God) to give to them, is if we ourselves are lovingly obedient to our Father first.
“Because, son/daughter, I love you and want what’s best for you. But more importantly than that, I have been placed here by our Father in Heaven to parent you and, by so doing, develop in you trust, love and obedience, not only for me, but for Him. I love you child, and I love Him, and this is what He wants us to do.”
Can you say that to your child when they ask the piercing question? Can you be that confident in your understanding of your mission? Are you obedient enough to earn the trust and obedience of your children? Of course it may require a lot of change, prayer, and work on your part.
But isn’t that the point?
Zach Horton is a religious educator, a father, and a believer in Christ. Together he and his wife are currently seeking advanced degrees in the School of Parenting with emphases in Lego construction and design, tantrum-ology, and “zero-energy-yet-still-parenting” theory. In his spare time (that he doesn’t really have due to previously mentioned parenting school) he likes to watch and play soccer, write, read and go adventuring with his family.