Deuteronomy 6:20
In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the decrees and statutes and ordinances the LORD our God has commanded you?"
Family Training is to Propagate the LawR.M. Edgar Deuteronomy 6:6-25
The Religious Education of ChildrenJ. Orr Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 20-25
Children's QuestionsH. Bushnell.Deuteronomy 6:20-21
Deliverance from EgyptA. Jones.Deuteronomy 6:20-21
Let the Bible SpeakA. Monod.Deuteronomy 6:20-21
Questions and AnswersJ. Parker, D. D.Deuteronomy 6:20-21
Remembrances of Holy PrivilegesJ. Slade, M. A.Deuteronomy 6:20-21
The Significancy of the Jewish PassoverW. Harrison, M. A.Deuteronomy 6:20-21
The Parental OfficeD. Davies Deuteronomy 6:20-25

In the Mosaic economy, the parental office is made prominent, and parental influence is pressed into service. All God's arrangements for training mankind dovetail into one another.

I. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO PROVOKE RELIGIOUS INQUIRY. No greater folly can be perpetrated than the attempt to repress inquiry. Inquiry is the king's highway to wisdom, and who dare block it up? God loves to hear honest inquiry. To afford instruction is the delight of the Divine Spirit, but what instruction will be valued if no spirit of inquiry is awake? Some questions which we ask can never be solved; they are beyond the range of the human mind. Some questions God will not answer, because they are vain and useless. But honest questions, with a view to practical obedience, God delights to hear. You can do the young no better service than encourage their minds to inquire after religious facts. "What mean these things?"

II. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO ANSWER FULLY CHILDREN'S QUESTIONS. It is childish folly to attempt to conceal our lowly origin. There is no real disgrace in an obscure parentage. To have been formerly enslaved, or imprisoned, or oppressed, through man's injustice, is an honor, not a stigma of reproach. There is no real shame, except such as proceeds from wrong-doing. It will do us good, it will do our children good, to see the "rock whence we were hewn, the hole of the pit from which we were digged." It will foster humility, gratitude, contentment, trust. It will lead us afresh to adore the Divine goodness, and to count ourselves and our children the servants of this mighty God. Never let true Israelites forget that all they have they owe to God! Unto this state of happy privilege a Divine hand has brought us.

III. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO OPEN UP GOD'S BENEFICENT INTENTION. If any man is too indolent to investigate truth for his own sake, he may be provoked to do it for his children's sake. We should have such a firm conviction that every arrangement and command of God was "for our good always," that we can demonstrate it to our children. Our knowledge of God and of his practical dealings should be so broad and clear that we might see and feel that his care for our good was paramount. This is the first and loftiest end he seeks - not our enjoyment, but our good. Not to demonstrate his power, or his consistency, or his determination to conquer, - these are not his foremost aims, but "our good always." His costliest deed of condescension was the yielding of his Son to death. And where shall we seek the moving principle? In his own future glory merely? No! In his love for the world! Yet his glory, and man's real good, are but the separate threads that make one cord.

IV. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO PROMOTE HIS CHILDREN'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. "It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments." No more conclusive argument can parents use; no loftier end can they contemplate. To become righteous - this is to be the lofty ideal we set before our children. But commensurate with the grand acquisition must be the care that we promote it by proper and practicable methods. It is impossible for guilty men to regain righteousness by their own efforts or merits. But real righteousness is provided for us by the bounty of God, and is offered to us in Christ as a free gift. "He hath brought in everlasting righteousness, which is for all and upon all that believe." Our ambition for our children must be the highest - not that they be richly dowered, or learned, or placed in earthly rank, but that they may be internally and thoroughly righteous. - D.

When thy son asketh thee.
We are also favoured with Divine ordinances, as were the Israelites; and for the same purpose, for a pious testimony to keep alive upon the earth a remembrance of God's surpassing love. As to them pertained "the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the service of God and the promises," so to us pertain the gracious promises of life and salvation, and all the privileges and ordinances of the Christian covenant. So that when children, as reason begins to dawn, and they find themselves growing up amid certain religious ordinances, shall ask the meaning, we may always be able to point, with humble gratitude, to the origin and intent of every duty and service. The lisping babe is given to hear, perchance is taught to sing, of the cross which was traced on its forehead in infancy; and the pious mother is asked, What did it signify? She will point with tenderness to the Cross of Christ, to the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb; and the holy emblem, thus stamped upon the youthful mind and heart, may be there forever fixed by the Holy Spirit of God, as a living image of the truth in Jesus, as an everlasting memorial of His dying love. The child lifts up its hands in prayer; and wherefore lifted up? To its Father in heaven; to the mercy seat at which a Saviour pleads; and from which the Holy Spirit, with His manifold gifts, is sent down, gifts for childhood and youth, for manhood and age: and this in obedience to that Saviour's word (Matthew 7:7; John 14:13; John 15:16). The child learns to read; the Bible is opened; and every page is fraught with grace, is glowing with mercy. Here are tender invitations which the youngest can understand and feel. And thus our youth have in their hand a constant remembrancer of God Almighty's goodness; the Word written by the Spirit, and taught by the Spirit, to each obedient heart of old and young. The points are but few, respecting children, upon which we can now touch; but there is yet another, which marks rather the transition state between the child and the man, at least where greater responsibility beans. The children of the Church are brought to the bishop to be confirmed and here is a mighty memorial. All the privileges of holy baptism are then placed in view, and impressed powerfully on the heart. And over the whole of our Christian life and walk the tokens and reminiscences of God's goodness are plentifully spread; in all our Divine ordinances and services, and in all our providential experiences. Every Sabbath, what a blessed memorial! How does it remind us of the great Creator, and of His resting from all His works! how of our own rest in Him and in heaven! There is likewise that holy rite and service which the Lord Himself appointed with His dying breath as the sacramental emblem of His love. This is the most perfect of all the testimonies: a perpetual representation of the sacrifice before the Church, for the benefit of the faithful, for the conviction of all; a perpetual application of it, through the power of the Spirit, to the believer's heart and soul. And our faithful Church, in all her constitution and services, has acted upon this monitory plan; has sought to stir up continually the pure minds (of her children) by way of remembrance; and to keep the wonders of Divine grace, one after another, always before our eyes. At various seasons of the year she sets before us the marvellous acts of redeeming love, all that Jesus has done and suffered on our behalf: the mystery of His holy incarnation; His holy nativity and circumcision; His baptism, fasting, and temptation; His agony and bloody sweat; His cross and passion; His precious death and burial; His glorious resurrection and ascension, and the coming of the Holy Ghost. And besides her faithful dealing on these great occasions, she is continually bringing to view other objects also, other tokens of love, other means of grace, of high importance to be borne in mind and diligently observed. The lives and deaths of her apostles and martyrs are set in order, as so many patterns of righteousness, so many beacons of grace, etc. And there are other dealings of God with us to be treasured in the memory; the mercies of His providence and of His grace experienced in our own persons. We have been cast on a bed of sickness; who raised us up? in danger, who delivered us? in the deep of affliction, who sent the Comforter? We have sinned: we have been alarmed; we repented, prayed, promised, and were spared; and should not that holy season, should not all these days of grace, be kept in mind? Let us not unfrequently shut up the busy present, and muse upon the solemn past. God give us grace to deal faithfully; to prize the privileges, to look upon the blessings showered down upon us, to keep them in grateful remembrance, and so fix our affections upon the one thing needful.

(J. Slade, M. A.)

Suppose that one wholly uninstructed as to Christian faith and doctrine and practice should ask us — What mean ye? — account for yourselves; what are you doing? and why do you act as you do? — it would be pitiful to the point of unpardonableness if in the presence of such an inquiry we were dumb; our speechlessness would show that our piety is a mere superstition. It is surely, therefore, incumbent upon us to be able to give some reason or explanation for the faith and the hope that are in us. We cannot adopt a better reply than the answer suggested by Moses. No originality of answer is required. The leader of Israel gave the only reply that will stand the test of reason and the wear and tear of time. All we need is in this paragraph. Adopting this reply, what answer should we make to the kind of inquirer now supposed? We should, first of all, make the answer broadly historical. We are not called to invention, or speculation, or the recital of dreams: we do not want any man's impressions as a basis of rational and universal action; we call for history, facts, realities, points of time that can be identified, and circumstances that can be defined and have a determinate value fixed upon them. We could enlarge the answer which Israel was to give, and ennoble it. We, too, were in a house of bondage. That must be our first point. The house was dark; the life of the prison was intolerable; no morning light penetrated the dungeon; no summer beauty visited the eyes of those who were bound in fetters. Human nature had gone astray. The Christian argument starts there. All Christian doctrine is founded upon that one fact, or bears direct and vital relation to it. We, too, could add with Israel, human nature was Divinely delivered. The action began in heaven. No man's arm delivered us; no man's eye could look upon us with pity that was unstained and unenfeebled by sin. God's eye pitied; God's arm was outstretched to save. Then we could change, but their inner meaning is an eternal truth: it abides through all the ages, for every purpose of God in the miracles which were wrought was a purpose of life, growth, holiness, transformation into His own image. The purpose is in reality the miracle. That being so, the miracles never cease, for today the Gospel performs nothing less than the miracle of making the dead live, and the blind see, and the dumb speak in new and beauteous eloquence. In the next place, still following the idea laid down by Moses, we must make this answer definitely personal: — "thou shalt say unto thy son" (ver. 21). Speak about yourselves, about your own vital relation to the historical facts. The history is not something outside of you and beyond you: it is part and parcel of your own development, and your development would have been an impossibility apart from the history; let us, therefore, know what this history has done for you. The answer will be poor if it be but a recital of circumstances and occurrences and anecdotes — a vague, although partially reverent, reference to ancient history. The man who speaks must connect himself with the thing which is spoken. The answer is still incomplete. It is broadly historical, and therefore can be searched into by men who care for letters and events and ancient occurrences; the answer is definitely personal, and therefore the character of the witness has to be destroyed before any progress can be made with his particular view of the history; now the answer must, in the third place, be made vitally experimental. The twenty-fifth verse thus defines this conclusion: "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us." One targum says, "it shall he our merit." The general meaning would seem to be — "it shall be accounted unto us for righteousness": the attention and the service shall not be disregarded or put down into any secondary place, but what we do in the way of attention and observance and duty and service shall be reckoned unto us as a species of righteousness. What is the meaning to us in our present state of education and our present relations to one another? The meaning is that out of the history and out of the present relations to that history there will come a quantity which is called character. God is all the while forming character. His object has been to do us "good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day." Without the righteousness where is the history? Without the character what is the value of our personal testimony? We may be speaking from a wrong centre — from mental invention, from intellectual imagination, from spiritual impulse, from moral emotion; we may not be standing upon vital facts and spiritual realities. The outcome, then, is righteousness, character, moral manhood, great robustness and strength, and reality of life. The Christian man's history is to himself worthless if it be not sealed by character.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Children often break upon their parents with very tough questions, and questions that wear a considerable looking towards infidelity. It requires, in fact, but a simple child to ask questions that no philosopher can answer. Parents are not to be hurried or flurried in such cases, and make up extempore answers that are only meant to confuse the child, and consciously have no real verity. It is equally bad if the child is scolded for his freedom; for what respect can he have for the truth when he may not so much as question where it is? Still worse, if the child's question is taken for an evidence of his superlative smartness, and repeated with evident pride in his hearing. In all such cases a quiet answer should be given to the child's question where it can be easily done, and where it cannot, some delay should be taken, wherein it will be confessed that not even his parents know everything. Or, sometimes, if the question is one that plainly cannot be answered by anybody, occasion should be taken to show the child how little we know, and how many things God knows which are too deep for us — how reverently, therefore, we are to submit our mind to His, and let Him teach us when He will what is true. It is a very great thing for a child to have had the busy infidel lurking in his questions, early instructed in regard to the necessary limits of knowledge, and accustomed to a simple faith in God's requirement, where his knowledge fails.

(H. Bushnell.)

The mother of a family was married to an infidel, who made a jest of religion in presence of his own children; yet she succeeded in bringing them all up in the fear of the Lord. I one day asked her how she preserved them from the influence of a father whose sentiments were so openly opposed to her own. She answered: "Because to the authority of a father I did not oppose the authority of a mother, but that of God. From earliest years my children have always seen the Bible upon the table. This Holy Book has constituted the whole of their religious instruction. I was silent that I might allow it to speak. Did they propose a question; did they commit any fault; did they perform any good action; I opened the Bible, and the Bible answered, reproved, or encouraged them. The constant reading of the Scriptures has alone wrought the prodigy which surprises you."

(A. Monod.)

The ordinances of Israel were the ordinances of a redeemed people, and they were the signs and memorials of the fact of their redemption. Selecting the passover, then, as the most prominent of these ordinances, let us inquire what it was designed to teach.

1. In the first place, we see in it a memorial of Divine sovereignty. Could the Jew look back upon the history of his forefathers, and doubt that it was not their own might nor their own wills that carried them forth from the land of tears?

2. Again, we see in it a memorial of Divine goodness and truth. It was a promise that God would not forget, that Abraham's seed should inherit the land of Canaan; and now that he was in possession of all this, was it not well that Abraham's child should be reminded of what had been done for him? In the passover, then, he learned how true and gracious the Lord had been to him and to his fathers. What would he trace but mercy and faithfulness in all His ways?

3. These were the aspects of the ordinances as they looked Godward; but there were others which reminded him of his own personal position. Could the Jew, for example, forget the Egyptian yoke, as he stood up, year after year, his loins girded and staff in hand, to eat the Lord's passover? Is it not a little remarkable, that though they have lost the Sacrifice, this is the only ordinance the Jews celebrate to this day? Even in a strange land, and at such an interval of time, they fail not to call to remembrance the bondage of Pharaoh. How often does God set this before His people in the course of His dealings with them! "Thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt." He frequently reminds them. He would have kept them in a due subordination, that they might not be lifted up to their own destruction.

4. But we see in the passover, lastly, a memorial of present deliverance. As long as the Jew could celebrate it in his own land, he was reminded of his deliverance from Egypt. In this respect the redemption of Israel from the house of bondage has been always a present blessing. As a nation, and therefore as a type of the Christian Church, they have never been enslaved a second time in Egypt. Once delivered, they were delivered forever from that bondage. Most truly, therefore, could the Jewish parent teach his son — "We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt." That was a past history of terrible suffering and disgrace, and the remembrance of it could call up nothing in the heart of a faithful Jew but thankful, peaceful joy. The passover, consequently, was eminently a joyous festival; it was a feast upon a sacrifice; it was a celebration of Divine mercies, and of the entire destruction of the Egyptian yoke. And is not the Christian ordinance and history a counterpart of this?

(W. Harrison, M. A.)

The Lord brought us out of Egypt.
It has been said that the earth is but the shadow of heaven, and that things therein are each to other like, more than on earth is thought. This may be a great truth, for in the Scriptures earthly things are used as types and symbols of heavenly. It is so in the words that I have read to you. Egypt was the symbol of captivity, darkness, and death; and the land of promise, the type of heaven, where there is freedom, light, and life without end. And so, the deliverance of the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt by the mighty hand of God, and their entrance into the land of Canaan, are typical of our deliverance from the bondage of sin and the devil, and entrance into the kingdom of heaven, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Hence we shall consider these words: first in their literal sense; and, secondly, in their spiritual meaning.

I. First, we shall consider these words IN THEIR LITERAL SENSE. Nearly four thousand years ago, a period soon after the deluge, Egypt appears to have had its kings and princes, and to have been great as a kingdom of this world. Nor is it only remarkable for its antiquity, but also for its physical phenomena, its worldly wisdom, its idolatry, and its monuments. It was peopled by the descendants of Ham, and was dedicated to him, and therefore, from the earliest times, in the hieroglyphics and Scripture, it was called "the land of Ham." Now Ham, as a deity, was reverenced as the sun, and no doubt he was the sole introducer of the worship of the sun after the deluge. That Egypt was addicted to sun-worship there can be no doubt; for it is not only seen in the hieroglyphics or sacred writings, but also by means of several of its most ancient names. The theology of Egypt, however, being so closely connected with astronomical principles, underwent as many changes as the planets themselves. Hence it is that there are so many and various opinions upon it. One thing is clear, that they paid great honours to brute animals, and employed them as representatives of their deities. Thus God manifested His power, and mercy, and faithfulness. His power in delivering a defenceless people from the oppression of one of the greatest military nations of the ancient world; and His mercy in giving them the land of Canaan; and His faithfulness in performing the oath which He sware unto Abraham, that He would give them.

II. We shall now consider THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THE WORDS OF OUR TEXT. And here it will assist us very much to know that Egypt had several names; and we have found, after much research, that under whatever name we contemplate this land of spiritual darkness, we perceive the same root and source of post-diluvian idolatry — Ham associated with the sun; and along whatever line we pursue our investigations in the etymology of this land of spiritual wickedness, we arrive at the same goal. Here let us learn a lesson on worldly wisdom and human power.

1. Egypt was the mother of learning and of gross idolatry; of worldly light and spiritual darkness. It was sacred for a time to the physical sun, the source of light and life in the natural world; but it will be forever an emblem of darkness and death. It reared its pyramidical temples to the sun, symbolising its worldly greatness and light; but it was as full of darkness and dead men's bones as the pyramids themselves. In human language, Egypt, with its various names, means light; in the language of heaven, darkness; in the language of earth, life and fruitfulness; but in the language of heaven, death and corruption. Hence it is that Egypt in the Scriptures symbolises the present world. It was the source of worldly wisdom and gross idolatry. The Egyptians, professing themselves to be wise, became fools; for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. We read the wisdom of this world in the ruins of Egypt, Assyria, Palestine, Greece and Rome. The kingdoms of this world may build their nests in the rocks, as the Kenite of old; nevertheless they shall be wasted, and their palaces shall be for beasts to lie down in.

2. Egypt is synonymous with the world, and we know that the world is enmity against God. Let us, therefore, cast off the world, and its Egyptian darkness, and its enmity to God and truth. Let us turn from the world, so full of error, darkness, folly, and death; let us come out of it; let us walk worthy of our high calling; let us walk as children of light and children of the day. Now the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage was typical of our deliverance from sin and Satan. We know very well how great the oppression of Egypt was. We know that their cries pierced the clouds, and found their way to the throne of God, and He came down to deliver them; and He accomplished this by His own power, and wisdom, and mercy, and gave them the land of Canaan, and a code of Divine laws. Now this faintly shadows forth the deliverance of all mankind from the slavery of sin and the devil, than which a more cruel slavery never oppressed the family of man. Our text admits a still higher development, namely, that the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan was typical of the entrance into heaven of all true believers. Of that glorious place, the brightest scenes of earth are but shadows dim and dark. The Israelite in Egypt never looked to the land of Canaan with the earnest longing of the disciples of Jesus for the heavenly Canaan; and why? Our title to it is clearer. It is our heavenly inheritance, purchased for us with the precious blood of Christ; and it is kept for us by the power of God through faith. We dwell on earth; but our heart and our life are there, hid with Christ in God.

(A. Jones.)

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