How do we form our children in the faith and bestow a Godly heritage upon them? Let us turn to God’s Word for inspiration and instruction.
Sons are a heritage from the Lord
Children are a reward from Him.
~ Psalm 127:3 (NIV)
What does leaving a Godly heritage look like? What does it mean ‘to leave a Godly heritage?’
Heritage can relate to many things, but for our purpose, we will use the Oxford Dictionary definition, which in part states: Heritage is “valued qualities and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations.”
The instructions written by Asaph in the 78th Psalm, especially verses 5-7, encapsulate how ‘heritage’ can be a living experience to perpetuate the teachings of our God and His achievements. It is written:
“He decreed statutes for Jacob, and established the law in Israel,
which He commanded our forefathers to teach to their children,
so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
and not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.’
The Big Question
Is this happening in your home and the homes of the families involved in the church? How do we teach and nurture our heritage? Do we pass on all we know about our Lord to our children and teach and encourage them to teach their children?
The family home is the most crucial and important learning environment for our children. It is here, in their early formative years, where the child will be most influenced — for better or for worse. They will learn (or not) to bond with those around them.
Children learn language, positive and negative behaviour, and how to interact with others in the home. Modern research confirms that the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial and vital time to instil good attitudes and create healthy habits, especially regarding their spiritual growth and understanding.
Research by the noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist at Oxford University, Justin L Barret, about the value of religious faith, has found that we are all predisposed to believe in God from birth. This would be consistent with the Scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:11 —
“He has also set eternity in the hearts of men….”
To further explore what it means to leave a Godly heritage, let us now consider the instructions given to Moses before the Israelites went into the Promised Land. Consider how these instructions relate to us today.
My conviction is that these Scriptures set out God’s plan for families and demonstrate how to impart the parents’ faith to their children. I use the word to impart the parent’s faith, as opposed to imposing their faith on their children. The home is the place where children should be introduced to the Lord of Creation and the Saviour of the World.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is known as the Shema (pronounced “Shem-ar”) and is worthy of our examination. These instructions for the family were given to Moses to be passed on. It is considered by devout Jews as the most critical and significant portion of the book of Deuteronomy.
Jewish children are taught this as a prayer. Devout Jews recite it three times a day. Each Friday evening, as the Sabbath begins, in Jewish homes around the world, the father, and sometimes the mother, lay hands on the children’s heads and pray for them.
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (NIV)
“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one.”
‘You shall have no other gods before Me’, states the First Commandment. The land into which the Jews were going was a land with a multitude of gods. Sadly, this is the same as the society our children find themselves in today. We have the answers to help them make the right decisions.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
An expert in the law tested Jesus with a question. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus quoted this Scripture in Matthew 22:37. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind (might).”
Jesus then went on to say in verses 38-40, “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Our children are in desperate need of godly role models. This is a great opportunity for parents, teachers, uncles, aunties and grandparents to be those role models who demonstrate that they love the Lord with all their hearts, all their souls and all their minds.
THOUGHT: If I expect my children to pray, then they need to see me praying.
If I expect my children to love the Word of God, they need to see that in me.
If I expect my children to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, with all their souls and with all their minds, guess where they will be looking?
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”
Notice that this is a commandment, not just any ordinary instruction. Dare I say, not unlike the well-known Ten Commandments! The Lord tells us these words are to be in our hearts. These are not just for head knowledge, but are to be an outward demonstration and expression of our inner beliefs and convictions.
“Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”
The word used to “impress” means to engrave. Not merely talking but living it out, which is much harder. We do this to impart our faith, as opposed to imposing our faith on our children. If as parents we use the “do what I say and not what I do” line, it will not work in the long term.
Whom to impress — Our children
What to impress — The Word of God
Where to impress — Walking, lying down, getting up, and sitting down or,
use every appropriate and suitable opportunity.
When to impress — All the time.
This is a “lifestyle” that should be evident in our everyday life.
“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
It is always a joy when you see young people wearing the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets or something similar, and T-shirts that have a Christian message. Not only are these reminders important for our children who are feeling comfortable with a faith that is their own, but we also need to be reminded of the word of God. Hopefully, as they wear these obviously Christian items, they will also become competent in articulating their beliefs.
“Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
It is possible to have various reminders, such as Scriptures around the house and other Christian symbols, such as the Nativity scene during the Christmas season. We should endeavour to give our children books, games and items that will strengthen their faith and not cause them to stumble. These practices should begin when the child is very young.
Challenge: To take God’s commandments seriously.
What are the consequences of ignoring God’s instruction for our families?
Let us look at what happened to the Jewish nation when they ignored God’s instructions.
About 120-150 years after entering the Promised Land and experiencing God’s grace, we read these words.
“Joshua son of Nun died, the servant of the Lord died at the age of one hundred and ten.”
“And they buried him in the land of his inheritance,
at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.”
The influence of the godly men and women has now passed away.
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers,
another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord
nor what He had done for Israel.
After all the wonderful blessings of God, a WHOLE generation grew up who not only did not know the Lord but did not know the awesome things God had done for Israel!
“Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baal.”
Many of this generation do not know the Lord nor the incredible things He has done in the development of our great nation, Australia, or for that matter, Western civilisation.
That generation did not understand or did not know how to live in a Godly manner. They pursued a destructive and flawed lifestyle with dire consequences. Knowledge of a Godly heritage was not successfully taught or adopted.
Tragically, both of these situations happen too often in Australia and the Western world today.
What heritage will you offer your children to receive and adopt as a lifestyle?
THOUGHT: How seriously do we take God’s instructions about teaching our children?
- George Barna, “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions”
- Ted Baehr and Pat Boone, “The Culture-Wise Family”
- Mark Griffiths, “One Generation from Extinction”
Photo by Vlada Karpovich.
Thank the Source