Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 20, 2020
The Heart of Godly Parenting —Part 2 The Good Path of God
✤ God’s Design: Learning from God
“Go therefore and make disciples… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Parenting is just one area of discipleship. Because it’s more basic and fundamental than we think, it is often overlooked. But if we want to be effective parents, then we need to learn to be more like God. God is the perfect parent, full of wisdom, protective care, and compassion. We have already seen above as to how God has given us His Word to help us better understand how to parent. This is important. Parenting is a dynamic journey.
Here, however, instead of looking at our parents, we want to look at how God reveals Himself. There is no greater mystery in Christianity than to comprehend how God Himself dwells among His people. He seeks to make Himself manifest in His people’s lives. We should never give up parenting because of our failures. Instead, look at these places as places that He desires to work deeper in our lives. We openly invite Him to work in those areas. We cannot achieve these things apart from God. God wants to be part of our parenting because the discipleship of our children is so crucial.
So let’s consider how God helps us in our parenting.
God first spoke these words in Exodus 20 during the issuance of the Ten Commandments, hoping for His people would be more like Him. God can safely get closer to His people when they share His holiness. When in chapter 32 Moses came down from the mountain, he discovered that the Israelite people had already entered revelrous immorality and idolatry. Moses smashed the two tablets of the Law on the ground and judged the people.
- The Context
In Exodus 33:3 God said that He would not go up with them lest He destroys them. Moses met God face to face. He had many responsibilities but structured his time so that he could get to know God more. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:11). He acted as a friend.
Moses, however, had two complaints. First of all, he was told to bring up the people, but God told him that He would not go with him. Second, Moses wanted to know more about God. God, somehow, was keeping part of Himself hidden from Moses.
Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, Thou dost say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But Thou Thyself hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Moreover, Thou hast said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ “Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight. Consider too, that this nation is Thy people” (Exodus 33:12-13).
Moses wanted, or should we say insisted upon, God’s presence. He could have taken the people safely to Canaan but desired God’s presence more than the success of bringing them into the land. Moses had the right spirit. He knew how crucial the presence of God was to all that he was doing.
I wonder if we think we can raise a family, our business, our church or community without the presence of God? Many people believe they need God for only this or that special need in their lives. Otherwise, once that is solved, they forget about God. Moses, however, knew that God needed to be the center focus of His people. Without Him, they would look, stare, and gradually be like the world. He begged God to stay among His people and for the Lord to reveal Himself even more to himself. Parents need to be more like this and insist on the Lord’s presence. We have to be absolutely convinced that our parenting practices will go from bad to worse without growing to be more like Him.
We want families that are shaped by God’s presence. It is absolutely inadequate just to have children or to keep them alive. That is materialistic; animals have such low purposes. God’s end goal is much greater than just having grown up adults. More parents are realizing this today when so many children turn to immorality, covetousness, and the pride of the world. This is a wake-up call. It’s time to recognize that we ourselves have not pursued God, but only the things He gives us. Our children have followed our pathway and made similar choices. Perhaps, we do not want a godly family but just a good family.
As a father of a nation, Moses had a better understanding and had a passion for that nation. He wanted God in her midst, or he would rather not take part in conquering the Promised Land. “Then he said to Him, “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15).
I believe God answered His request to know God better because it was not merely a private spiritual quest but because He wanted to serve the people better. He had to know God better if he was going to care for them rightly. It was then, high on the mountain, God spoke to Him these famous words.
Let’s now turn to our central passage and look what we can learn from knowing our God. Remember, the more we know our God, the better parents we will become. He has given us certain truths so that we know that we should instruct our children in God’s Word. Only as we get to know God can we carry out this task of carrying for others. If we do not adequately know Him, then we will wrongly carry out His Word. Furthermore, our quest to know Him is not limited to gaining knowledge about Him but knowing Him.
A Good Look at The LORD
God answered Moses’ request to know God better because it was not merely for a private spiritual quest but because He wanted to serve the people better. He had to know God better if he was going to care for them as they needed to be cared for. In one sense, Moses was a desperate father (remember Solomon’s prayer). How was he going to be patient with them? It was then, high on the mountain, God spoke to Him these famous words. Listen to them carefully.
And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” And Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship” (Exodus 34:5-8).
Note how God revealed Himself to Moses. Remember, as we discuss these words, we should remember that we shall be more like Him as we get to know God. What is God like? What would we be like if we got to know God more? Or perhaps, more pertinent to our question, what kind of father or mother would I or you become if we came to know God more?
The Lord, Yahweh, proclaimed these truths about Himself. It was about all that Moses could take. At the end of these few words, Moses rushed to the ground to bow low before Him and worship. May God help us to learn to know Him more through our lives and not be content to only know about Him. There are two portraits of God, but there is only one God revealing Himself to Moses. We will carefully look at both portraits.
The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.
God describes Himself in four ways: (1) Compassionate and gracious, (2) slow to anger, (3) abounding in love and truth, and (4) He who forgives iniquity. The Lord Jehovah does not become that way, but He is that way. He is by nature, and for eternity, “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” More than this, He distributes His care, like a shower over the ground, unto thousands. Would you say that He wants people to know of Him that way? Sure. Why, then, is it that so many do not know this? Why do so many Christian parents are content to parent without knowing God more?
Please note, it does not say that God is gracious because He overlooks our sins. No. Clearly, it says that He is gracious because He forgives sin. This perspective is a different concept for many parents. Forgiveness means a clean pardon.
Mercy treats sinners as if they never sinned. Grace means to treat one well, even though he deserves the worse.
If we spend time with God, these aspects of God rub off on us. I am afraid that many parents spend so much time ministering that they have little time to spiritually grow. At a certain point, when we are vulnerable, the evil one comes in with temptation, and we fall. The Lord said that we need to daily pray, “Keep us from temptation.” We need to daily come into His presence so that we can learn more about Him and be like Him. This is just what the apostle noticed. Paul speaks about ‘our calling.’
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love (Ephesians 4:1-2).
What is the apostle drawing us to focus on in these verses? We are to be like God. As children of God, we become like Him when we spend time with Him. We were designed in His image and in Christ, though having lost that image, we regain it. There is absolutely no room for pride in the presence of God.
Let me give you an example with my wife’s permission. At times, our house gets rather chaotic. Children, not just one, disobey and have bad attitudes. It is like an evil spirit that comes over our house and taints everyone. My dear wife, though trying hard, feels quite defeated. At a certain point, this goes on until she notices that she has not been very respectful to me. She then gets back to the Lord, straightens things out with her husband, and then the children return to their prior, more peaceful state. Her attitudes affect the home. Just as her disrespect allows disorder to come into the home, her peaceful relationship with God largely reigns over the home. This has happened numerous times over the years, though thankfully much less lately. Our relationship with God dramatically affects our parenting.
What does God say regarding how He manifests Himself?
Yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 34:7).
These points are not new. The Lord punishes iniquity. Man innately knows of God’s justice with the conscience reinforcing this concept. Some people would dispute God’s justice, but it is an essential attribute of God. These verses also help us understand different aspects to parenting.
What does the Lord say of Himself here? The Lord states that He will always punish the guilty and even pass on one generation’s sin. In other words, there is no way we will escape our sins. Even our own children and grandchildren will suffer the effects of our sins. Doesn’t this seem to be contrary to the first? How can God forgive our sin, but then later find his judgment?
Although these verses do not speak of God’s sense of justice and wrath, it alludes to it by the judgment that He will undoubtedly bring upon the guilty. “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” Those are strong words describing God’s character. We might not feel comfortable with God’s ways, but that is only because of our sin—we are unlike Him in certain ways.
God did not speak of His justice and wrath here because He has already instilled that knowledge within mankind. Follow Paul’s reasoning below.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).
Notice the words, “That which is known about God is evident with them.” Paul speaks of the knowledge of God’s justice and wrath. When I talk to little children, they know of God’s wrath. They naturally fear consequences for their wrongdoing. This is where the cultures have generally come into play by introducing to children ways to understand man’s guilt and try to atone for it. They are led about in sin.
Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15).
The modern generation responds to their guilt and sense of judgment by denying God and sin itself. They strip God of His duties to uphold justice and to govern the world at all (though you will see many people demanding justice). They have, so-to-speak, dethroned the Lord in their minds, but He remains on the throne. Psalms 2 speaks powerfully to this modern mindset.
The kings of the earth take their stand, And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed: “Let us tear their fetters apart, And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury (Psalms 2:2-5).
Let us return and speak about parenting. We need to be more like the Lord. As fathers, we need to live out righteous lives and maintain justice. Children are very highly tuned to a parent being unfair, especially if they are not getting the favored treatment. “That’s unfair!” Let us reflect on this more.
The Lord clearly says that He punishes the guilty. Parents are to carefully instruct the child of what is right and wrong. Many parents have a problem doing this today because they fear they might interfere with the child’s natural development. That natural development speaks of the development of the old man—it never helps us. If parents do not set clear standards, the children will despise God as they grow up, not to mention their parents’ authority. Something else is also happening, however.
God as moral governor
If parents do not carefully live according to God’s standards but vacillate, then the children will justify their disobedience to the parents in the same way. The attitudes a child develops towards authority stem from their parents’ attitudes. It’s not just the standards but how they perceive these laws. Are they seen as good, keep people safe and protected, or do they feel cheated from a ‘better’ life?
All sin will be judged, including children. They have sinned. Let me tell you a cute story of what recently has happened.
God, the judge
One pleasant summer afternoon I saw that the older children went out on a long walk with their friends. The younger two were left at the house. I said, “Why don’t we go to the park?” They happily agreed and got ready. They wanted to take our dog, Riley, so Isaac got a leash for him. While they were swinging at the playground, I sat down and watched the dog. Some smaller city children began to group around me because of the dog. They asked if they could pat him, and I said that it was fine. One child asked where the dog’s parents were. I told them that I did not know. Another boy spoke up, identifying with the dog a bit, and said, “I don’t have a father.” I told him that he could get to know God as Father through Jesus. Jesus can forgive us our sins. Yet, another boy stated that he didn’t have any sins except one. I added that he had a lot of sins and started listing different kinds of sins but mentioned that Jesus could take away all of our sins. He said to me, “I am glad you said that because I lie a lot!”
Children know of God’s judgment. They, too, have a conscience. You can be sure that if they get upset when someone grabs something that they are playing with away, then they know the concept of justice. Some parents dismiss their children’s sins or state that it doesn’t matter. This is a wrong response. We need to teach them that it does matter. We can do this in several ways.
• Limit sin
We use physical discipline when they defy us and do not just put up with ﬂagrant disobedience. Physical discipline is a rebuke of our wrong action that will help the children not to repeat it. God disciplines us for our good because we are His children. They have already done it once and will be judged for it, but we do not want them to incur greater judgment.
• Increase their sensitivity to sin
A byproduct of chastisement is the increase in the children’s sensitivity to sin. (Actually, it also increases the parents’ sensitivity towards sin, though, it can get discouraged at times. How can my children be so bad!).
When we reprove our children as the Lord says, they know what they do is wrong. I greatly appreciate my Mom for spanking me. I knew I did wrong, but the spanking made me sure I knew it. If children are going to be open to the Gospel, it is because they are aware of their sin. A huge problem with Christian families pops up when there is no real physical discipline; children often get away with their sins without chastisement. In the end, these children do not think that they are so bad. Today, parents, unfortunately talk more about self-esteem than a child’s sin. God didn’t. Children will actually believe that they are better than their parents. These children end up despising the church and do not think they need Jesus.
It’s pretty sad to think about how few parents share the Gospel with their children. They expect the church to take up their responsibility. The parents should be the first to share how God can forgive them through Jesus. I had the opportunity not only to lead my children to the Lord but to counsel them about important spiritual matters. A pastor recently told me how his daughter, through some personal misunderstanding with another friend, led him and his daughter to have a touching conversation on her spiritual life. She had already believed but now at her early teen years had come to recommit herself to follow Jesus.
Lead them to Jesus
- How often do you meet with God? Would others say of you that these attributes of God have rubbed off on you?
- Which area do you want the most help with so that you can rightly parent your child?
- Do you physically discipline your child? Consistently?
- Describe the last time you spanked your child. Did you explain to your child what he or she did wrong first? Did you do it in anger (you shouldn’t have)? Did you reconcile afterward?
- What do you do when you do not perfectly portray God’s likeness in front of your children?
- Have you ever apologized to your children when you have wrongly acted in front of them?