Leviticus 19:3, 32
You shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.…
It is uncertain whether we shall receive the honour which is due to us. Possibly we may be denied some to which we are entitled; probably we have experienced this wrong already, in larger or smaller measure, and know the pain of heart which attends it. Let us, therefore, resolve that we will give that which is due to others. The two passages connected in the text remind us that we should pay deference to -
I. THOSE WHO CARRY THE WEIGHT OF YEARS. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man." "Respect the burden, madam," said Napoleon, inviting a lady to move out of the way of one who was carrying a heavy weight. Those who have traveled far on the rough road of life, and are worn with many and sad experiences, on whom the privations of age are resting, - these carry a heavy weight, a burden we should respect. They are as wounded soldiers on whom the battle of life has left its scars, and these are marks of honour that demand the tribute of youth.
II. THOSE WHO HAVE ATTAINED TO WISDOM. The young are apt to think that they can reach the heights of wisdom without laboriously climbing the steeps of experience. They find that they are wrong. Time proves to each generation of men that wisdom, whether it be that of earth or of heaven, is only gained by the discipline of life. There are men who pass through human life and learn nothing in the passage; the folly of youth cleaves to them still. Such men must be comparatively unhonoured, receiving only the respect which is due to old age as such. But when men have gathered the fruits of a long and large experience - and especially when men of intelligence and piety have stored up the truth which God has been teaching them as he has led them along all the path of life - they are worthy to receive our sincerest honour, and we must know how to "rise up before the hoary head" in their case. With all and more than all the respect we pay to the learned, we should receive men whom God has been long teaching in his school - those who have learnt much of Jesus Christ.
III. THOSE WHO HAVE LAID US UNDER SPECIAL OBLIGATION.
1. Aged men who have lived a faithful life have done this. For they have lived, not only for themselves, but for their kind. They have wrought, struggled, suffered in order that they might help us and others to walk in the light, to enter the kingdom, to enjoy the favour of God; and they have earned our gratitude by their faithful service.
2. Our parents have done this also. "Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father." What benefits our parents have conferred on us, what kindnesses they have rendered us, what sacrifices they have made for us, what anxious thought and earnest prayer they have cherished and offered on our behalf, - who of us shall reckon? The debt we owe to them for all they have done for us is the heaviest of all, next to that supreme indebtedness under which we stand to God. But it is not only the obligation we have thus incurred which demands our filial reverence; it is the fact that our parents arc -
IV. THOSE WHO STAND IN A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO US.
1. We should remember that fatherhood is the human relationship which most closely resembles and most fully reveals that in which God himself stands to us all. Christ came to reveal the Father unto man as the Father of souls. Therefore it is to be highly honoured.
2. Fatherhood (parenthood, for the mother is not to be left out of our thought) in the best state of human society has received the largest share of honour. We may gather from this fact that it is a divinely implanted instinct, only absent when the race has miserably degenerated under sin.
3. Honour given to parents as such is imperatively required by God. It was a patriarchal and Jewish, as it is now a Christian, virtue. After the injunction stand these significant words, "I am the Lord." "Children, obey your parents in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1). Filial disobedience and unkindness are grievous sins in his sight. Filial love, honour, and considerateness are well-pleasing unto the Lord. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.