The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost August 2, 2015
1 Samuel 2:12-36
2 Timothy 3:1-5
22, 625, 375, 624
“You shall honor your father and your mother.”
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:“that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
When the great apostle Paul wrote the words of our epistle lesson he was about to die for the cause of the Gospel. In his last words to pastor Timothy, Paul speaks of “perilous times” that will come “in the last days” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1ff). The “last days” include every day between the event of Pentecost nearly 2,000 years ago and the second coming of our Lord (cf. Acts 2:17-21).
As we read through the long list of adjectives Paul used to describe the people of the “last days,” we realize that this is a description of the “perilous times” of our own modern age! “Lovers of self, lovers of money, proud…abusive, ungrateful…slanderous, without self-control, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” These are sins that are common in our own day. They are all sins against the God of heaven and earth. However, sandwiched between these evils is a sin which stands out from the rest because it names God’s representatives, as those who are sinned against.
Paul says that the people in the last days will be “disobedient to parents.” This is a sin against God’s Fourth Commandment, which says: “You shall honor your father and mother that it may be well with you and you may live long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). In other words, GOD HAS HIS REPRESENTATIVES FOR OUR GOOD!
Who are the people God expects us to honor and obey? In his Small Catechism Martin Luther explains this commandment with these simple words: “We should fear, love, and trust in God that we do not despise nor anger our parents or superiors; but we should honor, serve, and obey them, and give them love and respect.”
First, all children are to honor and obey their parents. Paul repeats the 4th commandment in our text with a special emphasis: “Children, obey your parents in connection with the Lord, for this is right.” [v.1]
Much of the trouble we are facing in our own society is due to the prevalence of evolution and humanistic thinking which encourages children to rise up and question their parents’ right to discipline them and make decisions for them. Since evolution and humanism teach that there is no god and therefore no “right and wrong” to which man is bound, the vast majority of our nation’s children are led to question and challenge their parents at a young age.
But God, who gives children to parents, also gives parents to children. Children, therefore, are to honor and obey their parents, not when they decide that it is right and good for them, but because God has declared it to be right! If you, dear child of your parents, are also a baptized child of God, then you will be led by His Spirit of grace to obey your parents “in connection with the Lord”—the One whom you trust as Your loving Savior, the One who gave your parents to you, as His first representatives for your good!
Luther adds that we are to honor and obey also our “superiors.” Neither the Fourth Commandment given in Exodus 20 nor our text mention “superiors” who have the rule over us. This does not mean that Luther is adding something to God’s Word. God also commands us to honor and respect those who rule over us in the church, especially those whom God has called and appointed to teach His Word. He tells us in Hebrews 13:7: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you.”
Also included among the “superiors” to whom we owe respect and obedience are all of our government leaders from the president on down to our local judges and law enforcement officers. God’s Word in Romans 13:1 says: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
When God caused Paul to write these words to the Roman Christians they were under the governing authority of the Roman Emperor Nero, one of the worst rulers in the history of the world! Yet, even he was God’s representative!
As Christians we are against the funding of abortions through our tax money. As Christians we remain opposed to the judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the legality of homosexual marriage. Yet, we cannot rightly withhold our taxes or take up arms in rebellion against our rulers in government no matter how poorly they may govern our nation. To do so would be to rebel against our God and Savior who appointed them.
Finally, God wants us to obey even our superiors in the work place: our plant-managers, bosses, owners, and so on. Colossians 3:22 says: “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.”
While working in a meat packing plant as a college student, I saw men who worked hard to catch the eye of the foreman, but slacked off as soon as he left the room. There were those who cheated on their time-card when they punched out at the end of the day. These men did not obey their bosses with a sincere heart, because they did not fear or respect God. But the Christian is to “fear and love God” in every work-place, so that whatever he does, he does it to the glory of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31) whether His representatives see or do not see.
Because of our sinful, self-serving flesh and/or weak faith, we do not always see the good that our God intends to bring to us through His representatives in the home, the church, the government, or the work-place. But our great Savior God is good, and He has given us His Word to remind us of His goodness toward us. What then is the “good” He brings to us through His representatives?
In our text Paul reminds us of the promise that God intends for those who honor God’s representatives: “That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” [v.3] The Book of Proverbs and our own experience in the world teach us that life does not go well and is often shortened for those who despise God’s representatives. The child who will not honor and respect the authority of his parents, brings all kinds of ill upon himself, even , at times, an “early” death.
The blessing of God comes upon the child who recognizes that God provides food, clothing, shelter, education, guidance through his parents so that he may grow and prosper on the earth. But more than that, God works through Christian parents to bring the Word of their Savior to them so that they may live in Heaven forever. For the good of their children, God commands parents—particularly the father—to “diligently teach his commands” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7), and “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Likewise, God gives blessing through those who rule over us in the church as spiritual leaders for our eternal good. Since they look out for our souls, God commands that we “obey” them so that they may do their work “with joy and not with grief,” for our own good (Hebrews 13:17).
What about the terrible rulers of tribes and nations in human history who have tortured and murdered their people by the thousands? Surely we are tempted to doubt that God has appointed such rulers for our “good”; but Paul reminds us in Romans 11:33 that God’s “judgments are unsearchable and His ways past finding out!” So we Christians trust His Word which assures us in Romans 13 that “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil…for the governing authority is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:1ff).
When we have to pay a fine for breaking the speed limit, it hurts. But this is for our good and the safety of others! Whenever the government punishes a criminal by jailing him or putting him to death for a capital offense, God’s representatives are acting for our good so that we may be safe in our homes and that peace may rule in our borders. Therefore, rather than disobeying the government, we are commanded to “pray for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).
Dear Christian, are not our sins against the Fourth Commandment many and great? Are we not condemned by this commandment as well, so that we know we have deserved the punishment of God both in this life and forever? And yet, we praise our God of grace who sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to keep this commandment perfectly for us and to sacrifice Himself on the cross for all of our sins against His representatives!
When children reach a certain age they often show disrespect for their parents because they think they know more and better than their parents. But our Lord Jesus, infinitely wiser than any child born into this world, knew more than sinful Mary and Joseph, yet the Bible tells us that He was “subject to them” (Luke 2:51). Our Savior honored and submitted Himself to Mary and Joseph willingly, not only because He was holy, but for our sakes, that His righteousness might be counted for us and that we may follow His example for our good!
When Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Judea, boasted of the authority he had over Jesus, our Savior said: “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given from above” (John 19:11). Our Savior might have rejected the governor’s unjust judgment and saved Himself then-and-there from this cowardly ruler. Instead, He even recognized Pilate as God’s representative for our good, and went to His death for the salvation of all mankind!
Let us, therefore, repent of all our sins against the Fourth Commandment of our God, who has His representatives for our good! Amen.
Give to your parents honor due,
Be dutiful and loving, too,
And help them when their pow’rs are few;
So shall it go well with you.
Have mercy, Lord! (CW 285:5)
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