In my personal study the other day, I came across a passage that I've read many times before and it continually challenges me in my role as a parent. The passage is Deuteronomy 6:4-8 and I'd encourage you to open up your Bible and take a peek in order for the rest of this blog post to make sense. The passage is sometimes called the "Shema" because the first word in verse 4 in Hebrew is Shema which means "Hear". This verse was central in early Jewish life and was even worn in something called phylacteries, a practice that dates back to second century BC in Jewish tradition.
I've read this verse many times but I was struck by v. 6 in a fresh way. Moses writes, "These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart." I realized how I often get things backward in my own parenting. The rest of this passage instructs the people of Israel to essentially set up visible reminders of God's instruction throughout their homes. Thanks to the craftiness of my beautiful bride, our home is filled with original artwork, most of which carries Scriptural exhortation. It's hard to find a room in our home where there isn't a visible representation of the Bible in some form. However, the part that struck me as I read v. 6 is that all of that is worthless if the word isn't first in my own heart. I don't want my kids to get the impression that the Bible is only for adorning our walls and not our lives. The order of this passage is that the Word would first be in my heart and then the rest of the passage seems to be a naturally overflow of the it being central in my own life. If the Bible is plastered on the walls but it isn't etched on my heart, then I'm missing the mark as a parent. So here are my simple exhortations to parents related to Deuteronomy 6 and your parenting:
- Don't neglect personal study of the Scriptures- Make your own devotional life of first importance. Study, read, memorize, and pray so that the Word of God dwells richly in you. Don't just have Bible verses plastered on your walls but make sure the Scriptures are etched upon your heart and mind.
- Talk about what you are learning with your kids. The model set forth in Deuteronomy 6 is much higher than once a day family worship time. It sets forth a family life where discussion about the Scriptures is continually ongoing. Let your kids know what you are reading and how God is teaching you through the Word. Ask them questions about certain verses and engage them in discussion about the truths of the Bible. Make it your ambition that your legacy would be, "Dad was always talking about the Bible".
- Consider using a catechism to systematically work your way through important doctrines. I've never used Catechisms until this year and it's been amazing to see my kids pick up truths from systematically working our way through a Catechism. New City Catechism is what we have been using recently and we've found the additional songs and resources helpful for instructing our kids (and ourselves).
Don't let things get backward in your parenting. Let the Word of God dwell richly in your heart and overflow from you into the hearts of your children as you instruct them in the ways of the Lord.