Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NASB) These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
God saved Israel before he gave them his law to follow. God rescued Israel not because of their obedience to the law but because of his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel’s deliverance therefore, was not because of their obedience to the law but because God saw their affliction and cared enough to deliver them from their suffering to an abundant life.
A recent series of surveys demonstrated a rapid decline of spiritual vitality in the Western world. Only 35 percent of American congregations now describe themselves as spiritually vital and alive. Southern Baptists say that if current trends continue in their denomination, their churches will be reduced in half by 2050. In England, the Anglicans expect to decline by 90 percent by 2050. Other surveys have found the percentage of people claiming no religion has risen in every state in America, and the number of Americans who claim to be Christians is rapidly decreasing. Headlines warn of the “coming collapse of evangelical Christianity in America.”
The most alarming statistics involve teenagers and young adults. Masses of them are leaving the church after high school, and only a percentage of them return in a regular, sustained way.
I believe Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is the most vital parenting passage in the Bible. If followed, it has the power to reverse those statistics. This passage gives three golden rules for rearing children:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. The single most powerful influence in a child’s life is his or her parents’ visible, passionate love for the Lord Jesus Christ (Deut. 6:4-5).
His Word must be on your heart. We must love God’s Word and read it daily. It’s more important than newspapers, newscasts, sports, or hobbies. Our children should see us pouring over God’s Word every morning or evening (Deut. 6:6).
We must share with our children spontaneously and naturally any verses God gives us. Speak about them when we sit at home, drive down the road, lie down at night, and get up in the morning. When the natural conversations of the home are sprinkled with God’s Word, it’s like constantly planting seeds in the fertile hearts of our youngsters (Deut. 6:7-9)
The whole is here described as “these commandments” (lit., “these words”), a term that encompasses the full body of the covenant text as communicated by Moses but which is captured especially in the Shema of vs. 4–5. This is evident in the instruction to “tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (v. 8) as well as to “write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates” (v. 9). In the larger sense, they are to be committed to memory as the idiom “upon your hearts” (v. 6) makes clear. In the psychology of the Old Testament the heart is not the center of emotional life and response; but the seat of the intellect or rational side of humankind. To “be upon the heart” is to be in one’s constant, conscious reflection.
The believer is to place God’s word in his heart. The word of God is to be foremost in the believer’s life. We are to cherish it, and cradle it in our heart. Simply stated, the believer is to be totally committed, wholeheartedly committed to the Word of God.
The believer is to diligently teach God’s word to his or her children (Deut. 6:7). Educating children is an absolute necessity. And note: education is not just teaching facts and principles, not just passing along information. Teaching is experiencing the truth personally, living out the truth before the children. It is applying the truth to one’s heart and experiencing the truths within one’s own life. The children then see the truth of God’s word lived before their very eyes, and they absorb the truth, pick it up automatically. The truth becomes a part of their lives. This is exactly what Moses was preaching: the believer was constantly to talk about the word of God when he sat at home, when he walked along the road throughout the day, when he laid down, and when he got up. The whole thrust is that we are to live by the Bible, experience it, obey it, and set the dynamic example before our children.