In Deuteronomy 6, Moses introduced the idea of gospel-centered parenting to the people of Israel. Now, upon hearing this declaration, you might say, “Wait…Jesus had not yet come, so the gospel had not yet been fully revealed.” True enough. But in Deuteronomy 6, we find the single most important declaration in Jewish life, the Shema. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV). How was one saved in the Old Testament? He believed in and loved the one true God completely. The same is true today. And we now know that the only way to truly love God with all of our heart, soul, and might is for us to receive new hearts and souls and to receive a new strength from the Savior who died to make us new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Moses went on to command Israelite parents to pass down the faith to their children by talking about God in all the parts of everyday life, by posting Scripture on the walls of the house, and by regaling their kids with stories of God’s faithfulness (vv. 5-25). If the parents taught their children to love God with all their heart and soul and might, then “it will be righteousness for us” (v. 25).
One of the most often quoted Scriptures on parenting is Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This promise is attached to the type of command Moses gives parents when he introduced the Shema. It was true for Israel and I believe it is still true for God’s people today.
Southerners like to say, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” This is a strange way to say that “you had to try out food in order to know whether it was good.” Allow me to point to Psalm 44 as proof that gospel-centered parenting works.
In verse 1, the psalmists (the sons of Korah) describe their parents’ faithfulness to teach them the way of the Lord: “O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old…” These men had learned from their parents’ testimonies that Yahweh is the one true God who performed great acts of grace. The parents were diligent to keep Moses’ command. They bragged on God. And what was the result?
Verses 1-8 form the testimony of the psalmists. Yahweh is their king; He is their hope; He will be their salvation. Hear the words of verse 8: “In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.” These men had learned to love God from their parents. The lesson took.
But the situation turns bleak in verses 9-16. “But you have rejected us and disgraced us…” We do not know what turmoil the sons of Korah experienced, but we know it was a serious test of their faith. Until the trials came, the writers lived out the faith of their parents. Now, things were about to get real. Would they maintain their faith in God? Would they abandon what their parents had taught them? Would their testimony remain in the face of real-world, adult problems?
Let’s see. Verses 17-18: “All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way…” The seeds of the gospel (that God delivers His people because of His steadfast love) that the parents had sown into the lives of their children had taken root and grown into a mighty tree (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Remember Deuteronomy 6:25? The parents’ teaching “was righteousness” for the sons of Korah. They trusted in the one true God for salvation!
In the face of trials, their faith was validated.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
God’s Word held fast in the sons’ lives because of the faithfulness of their parents.
I have seen this to be true in my own life. My parents raised my sisters and me in the Word of God. They continually testified to the goodness of the Lord. Their answer to all of life’s problems was Scripture. In our house, there was one true God, and His name was the seat of all our trust and hope.
Did they fail sometimes? Yes. Were they perfect? No. Was our house the most peaceful place in the universe? Definitely not.
But my parents loved the Lord and His Word. And they taught us how to love the God of Israel.
And…when tragedy struck in my life…the pudding still tasted good.
Through serious tragedy, my wife and I were able to survive and to remain steadfast in our faith. Why? Because we are strong and mighty warriors for God? No. There have been MANY dark nights of the soul in our house over the past two years. Our strength has failed us. It seemed like God had abandoned us at times. My ability to pray waned for a time. Bitterness fought to creep into our hearts. But God is good. I am so thankful to be able to say, like the sons of Korah, that for my wife and I, “Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from [God’s] way” (v. 18). I firmly believe that this is because my parents and Carmen’s parents were faithful to pass the truth of the gospel and the love of God down to us. And in the end, we have not departed from it.
And we have committed that, one day, Lord willing, we will teach this same lesson to our children.
Parents, teach your kids to love Jesus. Trust me, it works.