Exodus 20:12 Sermon Notes


Ministry Associate Josh Hamm

Today’s Main Idea: We honor God by honoring those who represent God’s authority to us, and firstly, that’s mom and dad. 

The 5th commandment sits at the gateway into the second half of the commandments. It causes us to examine our valuation of the most foundational human relationship: which is you to your mom and dad.   

We’re going to take some measurements this morning – three to be exact – the width of this command, the length of this command, and finally, the weight of this command. God gives us the full dimensions here and the reason we need to measure this well is because a failure here in the human relationship is a failure here in our heavenly relationship. So the main idea is this: We honor God by honoring those who represent God’s authority to us! 

The first measurement I want to take is:  

  1. The width of the command, take a look again at Ex. 20:12 – who are we to honor? How wide is this command? Well notice, God says, I want you to be a people that firstly honors “your father and your mother.”  

Ok, so why, of all the commands that deal with human relationships, does God begin with this one – to our relationship to mom and dad?  Think about it with me. The relationship you have with your parents is the first relationship you ever have! When you came into this world, crying and helpless, it was mom and dad that cared for and protected you. This is the way God prepares us for life in the world where there are structures of authority. Kevin DeYoung puts it this way,  

In this relationship to our parents we learn what it is to have someone in authority over us, to listen to people, to honor them, and to do things that we sometimes don’t want to do. Someone else has a say over us, so we’re going to trust (teenagers, where’s the youth – are you listening) – that they know better. Augustine said, ‘If anyone fails to honor his parents, is there anyone he will spare?’ 

Kevin DeYoung

So it all starts here. This is the most foundational relationship because it shapes all other relationships our kids will have. [This is why this command sits at the gate to the rest of the commands.] Mom and dad – you have a weighty God-given task. It is bigger than just keeping them alive or filling their lives with busyness. It’s a slippery slope till your whole world is revolving around them. No, sometimes we have to remind parents – you’re the parent. God has given you the authority – not to abuse it, to make them accomplish your ends and purposes – but to bring them up in the discipline (that’s training) and instruction of the Lord (and in Eph. 6:4 God directs this specifically to fathers). Listen skills and activities are great, so long as they never supersede time for that which is most essential: wisdom!  

Proverbs 1:8-9 

The book of Proverbs was written by a father and mother who understood their God-given responsibility. Now most of the sayings here are from dad (whom God has given the greater responsibility as head over the home), but I want you to notice that a mother’s voice is not missing.

Proverbs 31:1-9 

Praise God for that mother – who spoke up with her God given authority.  

So for our young people in the room – do you recognize the high calling upon your parents? Your mom and dad have been tasked to represent God for you and guide you into a full life– not an easy or light thing – don’t make it harder. Instead esteem them, show your appreciation – Pay attention to the width of this command: your father and your mother. 

And if you do, then you’ll enjoy the full extent of this next measurement: 

Look again at Ex 20:12 and catch the length of the 5th commandment:  

Honor your father and your mother, (now, here it is) that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 

  1. The length of the command: how far reaching is it? 

What exactly is God extending through this command? The apostle who quotes this verse in Eph. 6 interprets it this way, “that it may go well with you, and you live long in the land.” If you honor your mom and dad you are going to be better off in life. Now don’t understand this as a guarantee that you won’t have difficulty. We all do. The word here is proverbial – it is generally true because this is the way God has set up the world. If you heed the instructions of your parents (in so much as they follow God and love Him), then you are going to stay on a level path. You’re going to avoid pitfalls that would otherwise alter your life for good.  

What this command is saying, is that with godly wisdom you will go far in life, and Jesus exemplified this. 

In Luke 4 we get a single snapshot of Jesus as a young man, just 12 years old. He and his family were together in Jerusalem for the Feast but when everyone left to go home the boy Jesus lingered in the temple learning and asking questions. He understood that His life’s work was to be about His heavenly Father’s business. But of course, his parents came back very distressed and didn’t grasp His explanation. But here’s the thing to notice. Even though Jesus knew His purpose and what He was born to do – yet we read this, Luke 2:51 – And he went down with them [he didn’t fight, he didn’t rebel] and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.  

Jesus was obedient to the 5th commandment – he honored his father and mother. And notice what happened: Luke 2:52 – And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man

That’s the promise of the command – that’s what “it will be well with you” looks like: wisdom, stature, in favor with God and man. 

So the length of the 5th commandment is as long as your days. It will serve you for life.  

But there’s one more measurement here we can’t overlook, and that is… 

  1. The weight of this command. For this we go back to the first word. What does honoring mean?  

I want you to notice that God doesn’t simply say ‘obey them.’ Now obedience is certainly part of it, particularly when children we are young, but this changes as we mature and start families of our own. Obedience is a part, but not the sum. You see you can obey, but do it grudgingly. But the word God uses here is a word for all ages and all seasons. And what more it is word that is impossible to keep unless it comes from a genuine affection of the heart.  

In Hebrew it is “kabbed“–  the same word often translated ‘glory’. What it means though is  “weighty.” So to honor someone literally means to “lend someone weight” or “to acknowledge someone as weighty.” It’s a speaking and a living that says to another person you are weighty in my life. Or in other words, I value you. I care for you. You matter to me. That is the whole reason for this (the visual). To make us think, 

Have I given weight where weight is due? It’s not in our natural selves to esteem our parents – and you can tell this is true when it starts to cost us something. Our time, our money, our freedom, our plans. Why is that? After all our parents made sacrifices raising us, they poured out themselves to give us a future.  

Later in his ministry Jesus got to the bottom of this very negligence. In Matthew 15 some Pharisees and scribes came to question him about his ways, why he didn’t hold to the traditions which they strictly adhered to. So they ask him, why don’t you do these things? And Jesus’ response is in v3.  Now notice the example Jesus gives as to how they do this, v4. 

So this is very clever. In order to avoid financial burden of aging parents who could no longer work and had become a liability, these men had a tradition in which their funds could be claimed as designated to God and thus off limits for anybody else. Now conveniently, the funds were only required upon death and in the meantime could still be used for one’s own benefit.  

And to Jesus this is outrageous – not only because they were willing to dishonor their own parents, but that they did so under the cloak of godliness, voiding the Word of God by their tradition. Jesus saw right through the charade, and identified the issue: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” You see honor, whether to God or to man, must be the genuine overflow of the heart.  

The problem is a greed and love of self. We don’t honor our parents because inwardly we don’t honor God. Speaking of all humanity, the Word declares in Romans 1:21 – For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 

If not to God or to our fellow man, where has all the weight of our honor gone?? It’s gone to ourselves. We think God exists for us. And our parents exist for us, and for our glory.  

Now contrast this with Jesus, who was always obedient to God even to the point of death, and yet even as hung upon a cross it did not stop him from caring for his widowed mother. On the cross! In John 19:26-27 we read, When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 

For Jesus, honoring God is never used as an excuse to disregard one’s parents – now for sure there were occasions when Jesus did not agree with His mom or his family (Mark 3:31-35) – but we see here that even until the very end He honored God, not at the expense of his parents, but by loving them at the expense of Himself. Jesus not only thought of Mary’s earthly welfare – he was committed to the more desperate need of her heart – for on the cross he suffered the punishment for her sin and made her forgiveness possible for the broken parent and the broken person that she was. 

And it wasn’t just for her. Christ died for all broken parents who’ve hurt their children, and all for all the broken children who’ve dishonored their parents. He died so that we would be freed to honor God as our greatest treasure and honor our parents as His gracious gift. 

We have not given honor to whom honor is due. Our parents were not sinless towards us, but neither have we been sinless towards them, and yet God, the perfect Father would receive us all as His very own children. Running to your Heavenly Father and receiving His love – that’s tipping the scale. That’s exalting the weight – showcasing the worth – of His glorious grace.  And this is the grace that will transform our view of and response to our earthly parents, some of whom were present and loving in our lives and some of whom were present in the worst ways or just not present at all. 

God’s Word calls us to honor our parents – not just those who are worthy of it, but those who are unworthy as well. I want to take a few minutes to walk this through because the parent relationship is a place where deep pain and resentment is not easily dislodged. I recall what one man wrote about his own father’s absence. He said, 

This preemptive rage towards him accompanied me into adulthood like an overbearing chaperone… paternal abandonment cast a deep shadow over my entire being. 

Finding My Father, Blair & Shai Linne 

The pain is deep because the relationship is so foundational to who we are. And yet, it doesn’t have to define us. There is a Light that can dissolve even that shadow – because Jesus, the Light of the world, transforms us from within. In Christ you become someone new, no longer bound by your past experiences or your past sins- you become God’s beloved child. Fully accepted and Fully Forgiven.  

Have you experienced that love? Jesus invites you in – there’s room at His table. In a moment we are going to do what Jesus commanded His followers to do: that is, to partake of His covenant meal together. It’s what we call the Lord’s Supper and as we participate in it, symbolically it reminds us of all we have and all we need as God’s children: His forgiveness, His fellowship, and His fullness. So why don’t you come in?! Know and experience the richness of what it means to call Him Father. And if you turn to Him and become His child today this meal is also for you – And if you do that we want to know about it – come and speak with one of our prayer partners and they are going to help you see and savor all that God has for you. 

For those of us who are His children, how do we position ourselves to experience the transformative work of the Spirit in relation to our parents? There are three practices that can draw us in, and as we proceed into the Lord’s Supper, I would ask you to allow the Lord to use these things to prepare your heart. 

  1. Thank God for His massive grace.  

First, the grace for all of us displayed in Jesus Christ to welcome us as a part of God’s family.  He calls us sons and daughters.  We can call him abba, father, and he is going to love us better than our earthly father or mothers ever could.  

But second, thank him for the grace given to you through the family you have. Whether are natural parents loved and cared for us, or an adoptive parent, thank God for how He carried you, even when mom or dad failed. There’s something to give thanks for, even if it’s the very little they did do, or things they could have done but chose not to do. 

  1. Ask the Father to show you how He is working. How is He at work in your heart in relation to your earthly parents? If they are alive and you have an existing relationship with them ask Him to show you their need and what He wants you to do to about it. Is there a way He would have you honor them physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially? If your parents have passed, ask God to help you continue honoring them by how you live today and how you tell their story.  
  1. Understand the essential role of forgiveness. Becoming God’s child isn’t a cure all – it doesn’t erase the past. Salvation has to be worked out, and one essential way we do that is by forgiving those who have wronged us – and that includes mom and dad. Those who have suffered abandonment or abuse have suggested this practice, and I would encourage you to do the same: write your story. Express your thoughts and emotion related to them. If possible, write a letter to them or to God extending your forgiveness. Pray for them. A healthy relationship may not be reestablished, but you’ve done your part in obedience to Christ.