The 5th: “Honour Your Father and Your Mother”


Sermon Text: Exodus 20:12
Sermon Series: “The Ten Comandments” (#6)

Watch Sermon Video: (Link will be uploaded soon)

Main Points:
I. The command: “Honour your father and your mother”
II. Why shall we honour our parents?
III. The ultimate purpose of honouring our parents
IV. The ultimate purpose of all human relationships
V. The gift: “Your days may be long in the land”

Some people say that the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue is the basis of the OT Mosaic Law and some others say it is a summary of the commands in the OT. What is your understanding of the nature of these commandments?

I believe you’d agree with me and my answer is that the Ten Commandments are ‘gospel,’ good news of our Saviour God for His people, good news of God’s saving grace for all who believe in His Son Jesus. How can the OT law the gospel, the good news of salvation be? That is the main point of this sermon with the fifth commandment. So, keep this in mind and come along, and hear what the Spirit of God tells us about this morning through His Word.

Now, have a look at this fifth one of the Decalogue. If you read v. 12 of Ex. 20, you’ll find this commandment consisted of two parts – a command and a gift or prize. It’s not a command only; the fifth commandment comes with a benefit. And the benefit for keeping what is charged is “that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” In fact, this is unique. A reward promised like this one is unique in the Ten Commandments; you cannot find a reward like this from any other commandment. Why? We’ll see why in a few minutes. So, let’s begin with the command first and see the nature of what is required of us.

We should honour our parents and this is the easiest thing to understand for all of us. Everyone knows that it is the truth. In every culture and generation, this is one of the unchangeable, unalterable truths. Even animals know it and live accordingly.

Having said, before we consider why we should honour our parents, we’d better understand what it is to ‘honour’ someone, let alone one’s parents. What is ‘honouring’ anyone?

The original Hebrew word used in Ex. 20:12 and translated into English as ‘honour’ means to regard someone weighty, therefore, behave with dignity, regarding that person as one’s own glory. Its synonym is to ‘obey’ and is closely connected to words like ‘awe’ and ‘fear.’ So, honouring one’s parents means regarding them ‘weighty’ rather than thoughtlessly or recklessly, and behave before them with dignity rather than indecently, and admire them as one’s own glory, never being ashamed of. This is to honour our parents. God demands us to be and do likewise.

In fact, this is something seriously contrary to the culture of this world and our generation. To the eyes of this fallen world, anything new is better; the old are slack and outdated, thus, unwise. Rebellion is the norm and furore of a new generation. But, the eternal, unchanging God says that every child shall honour his or her father and mother; he shall regard them weighty, thus, behave before them with dignity, and admire them, considering them as one’s own glory! This is the meaning of honouring one’s parents.

Once we know what this command instructs us, then our curious mind asks this question – ‘why?’ Why should we honour our parents? There are at least three reasons I’d like to point out to you.

Firstly and fundamentally, our father and mother are the source of our life. We are born from and through them. I believe that this biological reason requires no further explanation.

Secondly, we should honour our parents because our parents are the foundation of what we are. Our strength and knowledge and wisdom as well as our life’s goal and direction are all derived from our parents. Some might say that that’s not their case, saying that with their own effort, they have become what they are, having little or no influence from their parents. But that’s not true. Think about the source of their intellectual ability and instinctive interests, etc, etc. Everything is from one’s own parents. No one forms himself; no one comes to existence by himself/herself. Everyone inherits life, traits and all qualities from one’s own parents. So should all people honour their parents.

In addition, fathers and mothers are life-long companions of their children. They are great comforters, and they go with their children all the way. I think many of you know what I mean by this. No matter whether they are near their children or separated, even they’re no longer with their children, they remain as their children’s best supporters and comforters.

Of course, there’re some people who wish their memories of their parents or parent be erased for whatever reason. That’s truly unfortunate. But, even in such a case, the wounded heart sighs for the opposite, wishing that his parents would’ve been different, being loving supporters and comforters.

In all, therefore, you and I shall honour our fathers and mothers.

If these were the only reasons for us to honour our parents, then, we would’ve been in a big trouble because there would’ve been not much difference between us human beings and animals. It’s not only humans who honour one’s own parents for these reasons; animals do too. So, these biological and sociological reasons are not the ultimate causes of God’s urge for us.

The ultimate reason for this command is spiritual. Honouring human father and mother is for us to have a spiritual lesson. That is, to know from whom we’ve received life, and the giver of life is God the Creator. Seeing your parents, you find the origin of your breath. And perceiving the unbreakable line of life that has continually flown down to you, you realise the mighty and amazing hand of the Creator that gave breath to the first parents in the beginning and has formed all lives after them.

So, your honouring your parents is not just giving your highest thanks to your father and mother, but through them, to the ultimate Giver of life who is your heavenly Father as well as your parents’ heavenly Father! Your honouring your parents who are visible is to give your best and deepest thanks and praise and worship to your Heavenly Father who is invisible! After all, this is what it means to ‘awe’ and ‘fear’ God.

Simply put, honouring one’s parents is like a chemistry science lab experiment in schools. Students observe the process of a chemical reaction. Looking into the beaker in which that process is taking place, teacher explains what it is and the students nod their heads and say, ‘Aha! This is what is happening in the universe!’ The purpose for that experiment is to give students a tangible, visible, perceptible example of the law of chemistry in God’s creation.

So is this command for honouring one’s father and mother. Parents are a tangible, visible and perceptible example of the existence of the ultimate, yet, invisible, source of life, God the Creator and our heavenly Father. Like the way those students appreciate the unchangeable laws of the nature, so should we honour our loving and amazing Father in heaven.

In fact, honouring our parents is not the only example given to us through which we may learn and understand our relationship with our Heavenly Father; all human relationships are. Eph. 5, our first Scripture reading, explains it well.

We find several relationships in Eph. 5:22-6:9. For example, the relationship of husband and wife. In 5:32, you find the ultimate purpose of explaining that ‘love-respect’ relationship between them. And that is to teach us the relationship between Christ and the church!

Husbands are to learn from their experience of loving their wives in what way Christ gave His life for His church! Wives are to learn from their experience of submitting to and respecting their husbands how all believers ought to give their hearts to Christ in full submission and respect!

I believe you know this well that, in heaven, in the kingdom of God, in the consummated new heavens and new earth, we’ll all be brothers and sisters to each other, having one Father. Even Christ the Lord is our Brother. In our eternal home, we’ll no longer call one another, ‘mum or dad or uncle or grandma’ – no! We’ll be sons and daughters of our one heavenly Father. All human relationship we have here on earth are the examples or textbook or teaching material through which we learn our ultimate relationship with our Creator and with one another in Jesus Christ!

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Jesus, let us honour our fathers and our mothers. By honouring them, let us hear our heavenly Father’s sweet voice of invitation to be His children, and come to Him and live as His dear ones.

Finally, let me briefly point out to you the gift promised for keeping this commandment. What is this gift or reward? The second half of Ex. 20:12 says this: “that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Why is the prize for honouring parents a long life? Not simply a life, but a ‘long’ life ‘in the land of God’?

This prize is the crown of ‘eternal life’ in the kingdom God is going to give to all who wholeheartedly honour Him as their heavenly and eternal Father.

King David of the OT knew about it and talked about how satisfactory and joyful this gift would be in Ps. 23. Listen to him: “My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

So, let us remember that this command for honouring our parents leads us to know that God is our Creator and heavenly Father, and honouring God is our only and ultimate joy. In remembering this, we must never forget but remember that we ourselves could not know God because of our sins. We were dead in sin and nothing in us could lead us to find God. But, He sent Jesus, His Son, to die in our stead and, in His death, to take our sins away. And He gave us ‘faith’ in Jesus as His gift which enabled us to believe in Jesus and commit our life to Him as our Lord. And through this faith, we’re no longer under sin, but in the life of the Son!

This has enabled us to realise and understand our ultimate relationship with God. Honouring our human parents is God’s gracious gift to us through which we learn to honour our eternal Father!

So, in this way, the fifth commandment reveals to us the loving heart of our Father. He has granted to us parents, fathers and mothers, in order that we might know His caring and long-suffering heart, waiting for us to repent and trust in Jesus. In this sense, this fifth one, along with all others in the Ten Commandments, is gospel, the good news of our God, our Heavenly Father in and through Jesus our Lord! ***

Let’s pray. Oh, gracious heavenly Father, we thank You for this command to honour our fathers and mothers. And ultimately for opening our eyes to see that You are our Creator God and we’re Your dear children whom You’ve purchased with the blood of Your Son, Jesus our Lord! May we know You more; and by Your grace, be brought nearer to You to honour and worship You, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen. ***

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