Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
This is a happy day! ______ and _____ have presented their son, _____, for baptism. So we are filled with joy for them as a family.
__________________ face the responsibilities of parenting together. And this means that for them, as Christians, not only all of the practical and physical responsibilities, but also the spiritual responsibilities. This morning they vowed to do all in their power to instruct ______ in the truth of the Christian faith. So how do they do this in a God-honouring way and Christ-exalting way?
And this question has implications for us all. We have families here with older children, families with younger children, married couples who do not have children yet, engaged couples, and dating couples. Many of us are parents now or will be parents one day. But even if we are not parents, with every baptism, every one us receives a charge to help care for our covenant childrens’ instruction in the faith. So again, how do we do this in a God-honouring and Christ-exalting way?
What we are all in need of then is some instruction about instruction.
And that is exactly what we have in the passage before us today. As Moses continues to talk to the people of Israel about the Commandments of the Lord, we come to this section where BELIEVERS RECEIVE INSTRUCTION FROM GOD ABOUT INSTRUCTING THEIR CHILDREN.
And the word that will tie together our three points this morning is the word COVENANT. Most simply, a covenant is a binding agreement that establishes a relationship. And covenant is a very important concept when it comes to understanding the story of the Bible. As you read through the Bible, you will see that God makes a series of covenants with different people, each building on the last, until the coming of the Lord Jesus and the time of the New Covenant. And with each covenant, God binds Himself to His people and requires something of them. And if you look across or down at Deut. 7:9, you will see that our text is a part of God establishing His covenant with the people of Israel. Having just given them the 10 Commandments and all of the laws about sacrifices and ceremonies, God reminds the people that He is the God “who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” So covenant is key to our understanding of these verses.
Let’s see then that a COVENANT QUESTION receives a COVENANT ANSWER, which has implications for NEW COVENANT BELIEVERS. And they will be our three points: A covenant question, a covenant answer, and the implications for new covenant believers.
I. So first of all, the COVENANT QUESTION.
A. If you look back at 6:7ff, you will see that it was the duty of covenant parents to teach the commandments to their children. They were to do it diligently, when sitting at home, when walking by the way, when lying down, and when rising. Teaching their children the commandments of God was to be a 24/7 task.
1. And of course, it was only Jewish parents or covenant parents who would do this – only they knew that God had chosen to live in covenant with His people and their children, only they had the law of God, only they knew that God would raise up the next generation of covenant people in and through the instruction of the children about the law of God.
B. So as we come to v20, what we see here is covenantal instruction at work. Since he was very young, this son has been instructed in the law of God. He has been told that he is to love God with all his heart, soul, and might, and to obey God’s commandments, so that it may go well with him in the Promised Land. Well, “in time,” some years down the road, this son asks his parents a question; he wants to know the meaning of the commandments from God.
1. And notice that the son speaks about the “LORD OUR God.” And because the word LORD is in capital letters, he is using the special, covenant name of God, Yahweh. This son already identifies himself as one of the people of the Lord!
2. Now, if this were a sermon about why we baptize infants, we would spend a lot of time thinking about the significance of this boy’s words. Here is a boy who was circumcised when he was eight days old and raised as a child of the covenant. He has been taught to call on God as His God. And even though he still has much to learn and understand, he includes himself among the people of God. The change for us today is that circumcision has been replaced by baptism, and that we don’t point our children to look forward in faith to a coming Messiah but back in faith to the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is our privilege too, as parents and as a congregation, to raise covenant children unto the Lord.
3. But all of this is is why we have called this a covenant question: This is a son who has been raised in a covenant home, who has been given covenant instruction, who wants to know more about his God.
4. As one commentator describes it, This “is a question from a youth growing to maturity in the covenant community, already instructed in obedience, but wishing to know and understand the meaning and significance of the commandments that shaped the course of his daily life.”
II. And so, in response to the covenant question, we get this COVENANT ANSWER in the remaining verses.
A. Now, the “you” and the “your” in v21 are singular and masculine. It is envisaged that the FATHER will respond to the son’s question. And the Bible consistently expects fathers to take the lead in the instruction of the children; this is part of our responsibility as fathers. But if there is no father in the household, or if the father is not a believer or is spiritually lazy, or even alongside her godly husband as his helper, mothers also are to instruct their children. Proverbs 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”
B. But the response of father to his son’s question mentions the miserable situation in the past, v21a, we were slaves in Egypt, the gracious deliverance in the past, vv21-23, God brought us out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, and the thankful response in the present, v24, we are to obey God’s commands.
1. And before we think about v25, we have to pause here to take note of THE ORDER of the parts of this answer so far. For notice that this father begins his covenant answer by highlighting the grace and mercy of the God of the covenant: We were rescued. We were delivered. We were set free. We used to be in a place of slavery and death, but now we have been brought into a place of freedom and life. And this gracious act of deliverance becomes the basis of the covenant relationship and the covenant obligations that God calls His people to. So the answer begins with grace!
2. And in answering his son’s question this way he is following the pattern that God gave in the 10 commandments. How do the 10 Commandments begin? Also with grace, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
3. And so, even here in Deuteronomy, in the OT law of God, we can summarize the answer to the son’s question about the meaning of the law with one word that begins with ‘G’ and ends with ‘ospel.’ The meaning of the law is to be found in the gospel. God’s laws are based on His gracious acts of deliverance. The order is of critical importance – grace comes before law. It is the gracious rescue that leads to the grateful obedience. Law keeping is the response of those who have been shown the mercy and salvation of Yahweh.
C. So with that very important truth in mind, now we can look at the last part of this covenant answer – VERSE 25. “And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.” What is this father saying here? (And you will have to pay attention to follow this through.)
1. We know from last Sunday and Philippians 3 how the APOSTLE PAUL and many of the Jews interpreted this verse. There was a time in Paul’s life, before he met the Lord Jesus, when he thought that he was blameless in terms of the law. He said, “As to righteousness, under the law blameless.” And this would have been one of the verses that Paul would have pointed to prove his point. He thought this verse was saying, You are righteous if you obey God’s commandments.
2. But we have already noted the order in this answer – gracious rescue then grateful obedience. It was not obey to earn God’s grace, but obey because God has shown us His grace. So this father is saying to his son, you are to obey God because you are grateful for His grace to you. And because His law requires you to offer sacrifices for your sins, you are to look to Him for your salvation by waiting for the Promised Messiah. This father is telling his son that true covenant keeping is about faith, not works. Obedience to the law is how you show that you have faith and that you are thankful to God for His grace to you.
3. Now, you might be looking at v25 and thinking to yourself, Really, Pastor? Is that really what v25 is saying? Remember though that we are to read the OT in the light of the NT. And in Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul says, I do not have “a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.” And he says the same thing in Romans 3, No one can be justified by obeying the law. “The righteousness of God [is] through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” So the righteousness we need comes by faith in Christ, not by our works. And what Paul stated there was not something new, as though eternal life used to be about obeying the law but now it is about faith in Christ. What Paul was admitting was that he and many other Jews had it all wrong. They thought that eternal life was a reward for obeying the law when actually it was always about faith in Christ. So the covenant obligation of this OT father and son was to trust in the One whom the law pointed forward to – Messiah.
4. But you and I live in the time of the New Covenant. And the new of the New Covenant is that the Promised One has come. What the law could only point to in shadows and types the gospel makes plain in Jesus Christ. The covenant obligation for you and me is to believe in Jesus and His work on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. And we are to obey the law out of thankfulness for what Christ has done. Just listen again to a verse from our earlier reading in ROMANS 6. And hear how it is a perfect parallel to this Deuteronomy text in the light of Jesus Christ: We read, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin (that’s our miserable situation in the past) have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed (that’s our thankful response in the present), and, having been set free from sin (that’s our gracious deliverance in Christ), have become slaves of righteousness (thankful response).”
So by way of summary, the covenant answer of this father to his son’s covenant question was that gracious rescue leads to grateful obedience as we trust in the Promised Messiah. But for you and me, on this side of the cross, it is our gracious rescue in Jesus Christ that leads to our grateful obedience.
III. Well, what does all this mean for _________, and other parents, and future parents, and for us all as members of a covenant family – a congregation of the church of Jesus Christ? Well, let’s think about this as we consider the IMPLICATIONS of all we have learned for New Covenant believers.
A. God commands parents in covenant homes to teach their children diligently. And God has particular expectations of fathers as the spiritual heads of covenant homes. _______ you have an important responsibility; you have to take the lead in the instruction of your son. But you and ____ together must instruct ____ in the truthes of the Christian faith. And before we get any more specific about what that looks like, the place to begin is on your knees in prayer. What we are talking about here is a spiritual activity. So you must pray, regularly and often, that the Spirit of the Lord would guide you and be at work in _____ heart that he might seek the Lord all the days of his life.
And then, from these earliest days, let him hear from you that God is your God and that Jesus Christ is your Saviour and Lord; ___ needs to hear that Jesus Christ is your most precious treasure.
And ___ needs to see that your words are reflected in your behaviour; he needs to see that you are not just hearers of the Word but doers; that you love to obey the commands of God because of salvation in Christ.
And ___ needs to see that Bibles don’t lie on bookshelves all day but that they are opened for personal Bible reading and family devotions. You will teach ___ a very important lesson when he comes in and sees you reading the Bible and preparing for Bible studies.
And because Jesus identifies Himself as the head and the church as His body, ___ needs to see that you love the whole Jesus! And I will spell this out in plain English: If you regularly choose not to participate in worship services or a regular Bible study or other ordinary activities of the congregation, you will be teaching Jake a bad lesson about loving Christ and His people. But if you make it your habit to attend both services and a regular Bible study and the other ordinary activities of the congregation, you will be teaching ___ a good lesson about loving Christ and His people.
And what a great blessing it will be if ____ visits our covenant homes and joins in with Sunday school classes and catechism classes and cadet and youth groups and hears the same things from everyone of us and sees the same devotion to Christ and His people in us all.
And surrounded with all of these great privileges and blessings, you must teach ___ that he has been set apart to God and that he is to live for Him. You must teach him the commandments of God, and that he is to keep them out of thankfulness for God’s grace. And so, for example, teach him to obey you “in the Lord,” as it says in Ephesians 6:1.
Teach him to obey you because this is the command of our loving Father in heaven who has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Teach him to obey you because this is the example that Jesus Christ set for us to follow.
Teach him to obey you because obedience is pleasing to God.
And teach him to obey you because obedience to lawful authorities is right and the pathway of blessing, while disobedience will bring sad and harmful consequences.
For all this is what covenant instruction looks like in New Covenant homes where Jesus Christ is Lord.
____________, congregation, what we have witnessed today is a call to each one of us, now including _____ also, to put our trust for life and death in Christ our Saviour, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Christ in obedience and love. This is our covenant obligation. May the Spirit of the Lord enable us all to be covenant-keepers, to the glory of God. Amen.