Reflection: Deuteronomy 6
Having conversed with Moses alone and given him the Ten Commandments in the wilderness, God immediately turned His attention to a matter that was critical for the spiritual survival of the nascent Jewish nation. He instructed Moses to address the adult generation of their religious duty to their respective family units. It was imperative that the faith of the fathers be passed on to the next generation so that Israel’s faith in their God will remain intact from one generation to the next (verses 1 -3). It was instructive that God did not place this burden for the younger generation on Moses alone, or the leaders among the people, but squarely on the shoulders of the head of each family. No one else can do that for them.
This generation had personally experienced God’s many interventions and had seen His glory and greatness, and had chosen to obey Him at that point in time (verses 25-27). Hence, God began by prefacing His directive by a verbal imperative that was a core affirmation for the Hebrews, commonly known as the Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” This was followed by a clear command in verse 5: “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your souls and with all your might.” The fathers need to be the first ones to appreciate God in all their being. No compromises.
How were they to pass on their faith? They were to frame the entire day by talking to their children about the ways of God – when they rise up in the morning, throughout the day as they sit together, or walk from place to place, and when they lie down, apart from practicing other religious rituals (verses 6-9). They were also exhorted to patiently explain God’s testimonies, statues, and judgments when their children enquired about them (verses 20-25). The inference here is that quality time with their children ought to be a consistent priority that is required of them. The primary reason being that their children would keep faith with their God and reverence Him only (verse 13-14), when they (not the adult generation as they would all perish in the Negev) entered Canaan.
What then are the implications for parents to be able to carry through this onerous responsibility? Children are constantly watching, listening, and imbibing parental or caregivers’ modeling within the home environment, and they will most likely continue doing so till their early teens when peer pressure will begin to compete for their parents’ influence. Once the opportunity to impact them with spiritual (not to mention familial) values has slipped by, it will be difficult to claw it back. Therefore, it stands to reason that if parents are not enthralled by the wonders of God’s sovereign power, mercy, and grace, shaping a profound love for Him, they will never impress His glory on their children. If God’s Word is not precious to them, it will not be important to their children. Consequently, God categorically pronounced, “these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart” (verse 6). They are to consciously reflect on the law, to internalize it, so that privately and publicly they are to live it out unswervingly before their children.
That high calling during Moses’ days remains extant for Christian parents today, and the methodology has not changed significantly.