We’re going to continue to talk this morning about the issue of raising children. You could call this series Shade for the Children, or I suppose you could also call it The War on Children because that’s what we have been talking about. I don’t want to overstate that issue; I think it’s obvious to all of you. But just to briefly review, the war on children rages all over the world and in our country, and it’s nothing new. Children are always the most defenseless. They are always the most helpless of human beings. They are the easiest to deceive, and they are the easiest to destroy.
And parents have power to build them up or tear them down. Parents have power and influence to set examples of noble character and virtue, and examples of dissolute, dissipated, wicked, sinful lives. Children are the victims of the parents in their lives. All that is evil in a society eventually does its greatest harm to children; that’s why the Bible says the sins of the fathers have visited the third and fourth generation. When you have a corrupt culture, the children are the most harmed, and they become as sinful, or more sinful, than their fathers; and the next generation even worse, and the next even worse. And it takes generations to turn that around, if it’s ever turned around.
One of the things that we’re committed to as a church, and we’re committed to as believers, is to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Children have a battle when they arrive. As the psalmist said, “In sin did my mother conceive me,” which is to say that when he was conceived, the sin nature was a reality. Children come into the world as sinners; that in itself is a battle. They’re virtually incapable of restraining that sin. They’re naïve. They lack wisdom. They lack judgment. They lack prudence—just to use some words that Proverbs uses.
On top of their own fallenness and their own ignorance and their own lack of wisdom, they inherit the culture—the collective culture that their parents have created, or that the world around them has created. Not only do they inherit that collective culture, but they have to live with the massive reality of parental failure: lack of love, divorce, broken homes, sin of all kinds. Adults have always had the opportunity to raise children to honor the Lord, or destroy them; adults are always in a position to destroy children. And this needs to be examined very carefully because they belong to God.
In Ezekiel 16 we read a couple of weeks ago where God says about the children who the pagans were offering in human sacrifice, “They are My children.” And then in Mark chapter 10, Jesus said, “‘Permit the children to come to Me,’”—verse 14—“‘do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying hands on them.” Little ones belong to Him.
Parenting is a stewardship. Tragically, most parents don’t fulfill that stewardship in a way that honors God. As believers, it falls to us to pass righteousness on to the next generation, and that is done primarily by how we parent our children. And we’ve been saying that you have to start with the foundation, and the foundation is this: Marriage is a blessing, children are a blessing, and parenting is a blessing. And parents are the dominating influence on children.
Back in the Old Testament, we saw the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy—and I only remind you of it briefly this morning. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Everywhere and in every way, loving God must dominate your home and your life. It must be taught to your children.
Now that brings us to Ephesians chapter 6, and I want you to look at it. Ephesians chapter 6, where we have essentially the New Testament affirmation of parental responsibility that we just read in Deuteronomy 6. Ephesians chapter 6, verse 1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right, this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Submission of children; that’s talking about children being submissive. The Lord expects parents to teach children to be submissive in two ways: obey and honor, obey and honor. Obedience without honor can be bitter obedience. Obedience with honor is a respectful, willing obedience.
So the goal of the parent is to raise a child that is obedient to parents and honors parents. How do you do that? Verse 4 lays it out: “Fathers”—that’s the word patera, and it can be translated “fathers,” that’s actually the word for “fathers”; but it also embraces “parents.” In Hebrews 11:23 it is translated as “parents,” referring to the parental care that the parents of Moses gave to him. So while it is technically “fathers,” it encompasses the whole parenting responsibility.
So here’s the instruction: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is the parents’ duty summed up in a very brief sentence. Raise a child with truth and discipline, truth and discipline, so that the promise of a blessed life may be a reality. You want to train your child to be obedient to his parents and to show honor to his parents; and the promise of God, as indicated in verse 3 and repeated from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, is that he will live a full life and “live long on the earth.” If you want your child to flourish in life, you have to teach them obedience and honor of their parents. And, verse 4, you teach them “the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Truth and discipline—that is necessary to raise a generation of godly children who are blessed, and to avoid a generation who just repeat the sins of the fathers again and pass it on to subsequent generations.
Now how is this done? Well let’s look at verse 4 and kind of break it down a little bit. “Fathers”—it starts with fathers, and that’s why “fathers,” referring to parents; but it still identifies the fathers as the lead in this. Normally that word is used for the male head of the family, but as I said, it can refer to parents as well. But even in a parenting situation, the man is the head of the woman, even as God is the head of Christ and Christ is the head of the man. Proverbs says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” So the assumption is that it’s a mother and a father who are teaching the child.
Now Paul was basically living in and writing in a world where child abuse was normal, absolutely normal. As I told you last time, there was a Roman law called patria potestas, “the father’s power,” which meant that as long as a child lived, the father had the power of life and death over that child; and on any whim or any decision that he would make, he had the right to punish the child or even kill the child. When a child was born, it would be placed before the father. If he wanted the child to live, he would pick up the child; if he turned and walked away, the child would be killed or sold into slavery.
Unwanted children were left in the Roman Forum to be picked up by those who wanted to grow their own slaves or fill the prostitute houses of Rome. And I quoted Seneca: “We slaughter a fierce ox; we strangle a mad dog; we plunge the knife into sick cattle . . . children born weak or deformed we drown.” Child abuse was far more common and far more severe, in some sense, then than it is now, although they didn’t have the means to slaughter them in the womb that we have today.
Now let’s look at the negative, first of all, in verse 4: “Do not provoke your children to anger.” Something very similar to that is stated in Colossians 3, which is a parallel passage. Colossians 3:21, “Do not exasperate your children,” or “do not irritate.” They’re really synonyms: provoke, irritate, exasperate. It could simply be “make them angry.” And the word is very intense here; it has a preposition on the front of it. It’s a word that means “to be angry.” You add a preposition, it’s an intense kind of anger: “Do not make your children angry.” It’s simple: Don’t do things that make them angry. That’s the way to destroy a relationship with the child.
Now how would you make your child angry? You know how. You probably know the buttons to push to make your child angry. And you may sometimes think that generating anger is a positive because they’ve gotten the message. But the Bible is explicit: Do not make them angry. How would you do that? Let me tell you how it’s done. One way is by overprotection: Fence them in, don’t trust them, don’t give them freedom, box them in, make endless rules so that they feel bound, so that they feel more bound than the other children that they know. They will never read that as love. You have to have a little bit of rope, a little bit of slack, so they can develop responsibility by exercising certain amounts of freedom.
Another way you can exasperate and provoke your children anger is by favoritism. It might sound like this: “I wish you were good like your sister.” Not helpful, because now in the mind of that child, your love is second-class for that child, which changes the perception of the child as he tries to absorb the way he’s being treated. Don’t compare them with each other. Each one is unique. Each one needs to be given full love and never compared with another sibling.
Another way to exasperate your children, just being practical, is by unrealistic expectations. This goes on in our culture all the time: forcing them to get As or A-pluses, and if they get anything less than that, making sure they suffer pain. Most of the time this has to do with making parents proud; and pride is a sin. Genetically speaking, you might not expect them to get any better grades than you did. But certainly you don’t want to crush them under the weight of your ambition or your pride.
I remember visiting a girl in the psychiatric ward at UCLA who had tried to kill herself. Her name was Tommie Jo, and I knew her, she was in our church. And the psychiatrist didn’t want to let me in the ward because she was in a padded cell; they felt she was dangerous to herself. But I was persistent, then I got in. And I said, “Look, obviously you people haven’t done anything to alleviate the problem, you just put her in a padded cell. What harm can I do?” And so they let me in. And I got past all the front that she was putting up for the psychiatrist, and I said, “What is going on? What is going on in your heart? Talk to me.” And she said, “No matter what I do, it’s never enough for my mom and dad.” The people in this world that your children need to feel they are pleasing more than anybody else is Mom and Dad. Unrealistic expectations will make them feel like failures. They’ll be rejected in their own minds. This is very familiar to people who deal with teenage suicide.
Another way you can exasperate your children is by discouragement, discouragement: “Oh, you’ll never amount to anything.” Negative reinforcement: no thanks, no reward, no approval. You feel like if you give approval to your children, there’s something wrong with that. No honor. What that says is, “You haven’t earned a compliment. You haven’t earned a reward. You haven’t earned love.” But you need to love the way God does; and God loves us because of grace, right? You need to love your children the way God loves us, and that is He loves us in spite of our weaknesses, and He loves us lavishly, and it’s an act of grace.
Another way that you can exasperate your children is by selfishness. Some parents think they should never sacrifice for their children. That’s wrong. You need to make lots of sacrifices for your children, from the time they arrive until they leave the home, and then the rest of their lives—because that’s what love does. That’s agape, it’s sacrificial love. When you never sacrifice for your child, for something your child desires, something your child wants, longs for, enjoys, they become bitter because they see you as an enemy of their desires, and they feel like they’re intruding into your life and bothering you. Communicate sacrificial love. And they will resent you if you don’t.
Another way that you can exasperate your children is by impatience. Failure to allow for them to be children: to spill things, break things, make dumb comments, share ridiculous ideas and fanciful desires. Don’t condemn them. Don’t expect adult thinking. Affirm that they’re even thinking at all. This is hopeful.
You can certainly also exasperate and provoke your children to anger by neglect: failure to spend time with them, failure to spend time with them. Never, ever use withdrawal as a form of punishment. The worst thing—this is just me, but the worst thing you can do to punish a child is isolate a child because this is communicated: “I don’t want to be with you.” You don’t want to put them in prison while they sit and contemplate how little love and affection you have for them.
Another way that you can irritate a child is by verbal abuse. Children have very limited vocabulary; you don’t. And there’s a lot of stuff in your vocabulary that should never be uttered in the presence of a child. And I’m not talking about cursing. But you have verbal power that they don’t have. You have an extensive vocabulary. You can crush them with sarcasm. You can crush them with ridicule, cutting words. That very much frustrates them. That’s not what you do to people you love. That’s not how the Lord loves us.
You say, “Well how am I going to get my life in order to make sure I don’t do any of those things?” Answer back in chapter 5 of Ephesians, verse 18: “Be filled with the Spirit.” Let the Spirit have control of your life.
Most of parenting is sort of serendipitous, isn’t it. It’s not, like, mapped out. Some of it is, and you need to do that. The instruction of the Lord needs to be mapped out and intentional. But most of life is just reacting to what’s going on. And you don’t want to react in the flesh, you want to react in the spirit. So be filled with the Spirit.
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy. If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If he lives with encouragement, he learns confidence. If he lives with praise, he learns to appreciate. If he lives with fairness, he learns justice. If he lives with security, he learns to trust. If he lives with approval, he learns to see worth in himself. If he lives with acceptance, he learns to love.
Most of this is communicated in those moments that are beyond something you plan, just as life comes at you. So don’t provoke your children to anger, give them loving care. That’s the negative. Look at the positive, the positive in verse 4: “But bring them up, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
“Discipline” is the word paideia, which basically means “child training.” Train them, train them. It’s used in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews for chastening. Training them means instruction with reward and punishment, instruction with reward and punishment. To raise a child takes teaching—teaching repeated truths, teaching them how to think, how to speak, how to behave—enforced by rewards and punishment. And those rewards and punishments are never giving and taking of love. The Bible simply says, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Associate pain with wrong thinking, wrong speaking, and wrong behavior. This is how you train a child.
The word “instruction,” nouthesia, is “verbal instruction with warning.” So the words aren’t too different. You train them with reward and punishment, and then you verbally instruct them. So you might say that discipline is what you do to them, and instruction is what you say to them. And the goal is that they would obey their parents in the Lord.
Now notice the “in the Lord” part. “Obeying your parents, because that is what the Lord requires.” “This is right,” and they will not only obey because they’re wanting to obey the Lord, but they will honor father and mother, and live a full life.
If you go back for just a moment to Deuteronomy chapter 6, which I read a few moments ago, just a quick reminder, verse 4: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” Teach your children there’s only one God. Teach your children there’s only one God, there is no other God.
Verse 5, teach your children to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” In other words the obedience that you’re asking them to render to you as a parent is because this is what the Lord has designed so that they can live a full and rich life. It’s not for you, it’s for the Lord, so that they are in the position of being blessed. So love the Lord.
Then teach them, verse 6, to obey. “These words, which I’m commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” Teach them obedience from the heart. So you’re teaching them to recognize the one true God, to love God, to obey God.
And then you’re teaching them in all the issues of life, verse 7: when you sit down, when you walk, when you lie down, when you rise up. Everything in life becomes a point of teaching them about the one true God that they need to love and obey.
And then place reminders everywhere, like “a sign on your hand,” or “frontals on your forehead”; “write it on the doorpost of your house,” just constantly reminding them that there’s one God to be loved and obeyed.
And then warn them about the world, verse 10: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you didn’t build, and houses full of all good things which you didn’t fill, and hewn cisterns which you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive trees which you didn’t plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord.” You’re always fighting the world. And the world is trying to do to your children the opposite of what you’re trying to do. Do you understand that? The world is not your friend; the world is the enemy, and the world is relentless.
Now where does this kind of teaching start? Look at 2 Timothy for a moment because this is very important. Where does this teaching start, to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? Look at 2 Timothy 3:15. Paul says, regarding Timothy, “That from childhood you have known the sacred writings”—Scripture—“which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” There it is. Faithful parents, in the case of Timothy, faithful parents. Paul even identifies a faithful mother back in chapter 1, verse 5, and a faithful grandmother, who from childhood instructed Timothy in the Scriptures that taught the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
You start by giving them the gospel. And what is the gospel? God is holy and demands holiness. God hates sin and always punishes it. And God has pronounced judgment on all sinners. Sin makes peace with God impossible and destroys peace with others as well. And all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are headed for eternal death. And sinners can do nothing to earn forgiveness. And you know the gospel: The remedy is through faith in the Son of God, who died and rose again for our salvation.
Teach them the gospel over and over and over. Teach your children to repent, teach them to repent. It’s not enough to say, “That’s wrong,” and discipline the child. Teach the child to repent. Teach the child to reject anything and everything that dishonors God, anything and everything that dishonors God. The Great Commission: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” is the Great Commission. And it’s the Great Commission at home: “Teach them to observe all things whatsoever God has commanded in His Word.” Teach them to reject all that dishonors God. Teach them to love the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him as Savior. Teach them to follow Jesus obediently, and that includes obeying and honoring parents.
Now the book of Proverbs is the manual on this. Let’s go back to the book of Proverbs. Just to remind you of the fact that this was written for this purpose, Proverbs begins: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion.” So that’s the whole point of Proverbs: to take the young and give them the wisdom that they desperately need. And it starts with the father and passes down.
Look at chapter 2, verse 1: “My son . . . receive my words.” Chapter 3, verse 1: “My son, do not forget my teaching.” Chapter 4, verse 1: “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words.’” Chapter 4, verse 10: “Hear, my son, and accept my sayings.” Verse 20: “My son, give attention to my words.” Chapter 5, verse 1: “My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may observe discretion and your lips may reserve knowledge.” Chapter 6, verse 1: “My son.” And it just keeps going like this. Verse 20: “My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you.” That’s based on Deuteronomy 6.
In chapter 7, verse 1: “My son, keep my words, treasure my commandments.” Verse 24: “Now therefore, my sons, listen to me.” Chapter 8, verse 32: “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways.” And in chapter 8 it’s actually wisdom calling; and verse 36 says, “He who sins against me”—against wisdom—“injures himself; all those who hate me love death.” There’s a high price for rejecting wisdom. So this is the parent’s task.
Your child is foolish and naïve, desperately needs wisdom. They come into the world, Ephesians 4 says, dark and without the knowledge of God. They come into the world, that same chapter, Ephesians 4, says, with ignorance dominating them. In fact, in Proverbs 22:15 it says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” So the child may think he’s right—but the child is a fool.
There’s more than just salvation. It starts with salvation. But in 1 Corinthians 1:30 we read, “Christ, who became to us wisdom from God.” So when you come to Christ, He becomes the source of ongoing wisdom, for “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” So you start with the gospel, and then you go to the person of Christ and all that He said and all that He taught of divine wisdom. That’s how Christ becomes to us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. We want our children to have the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:16, to think the way Christ thinks. That’s why we go to the extent here that we do in Generations of Grace, to provide an unparalleled curriculum for children on Sunday morning, and Adventure Club on Sunday night—unparalleled curriculum in sound doctrine.
Now I want to just wrap up this morning by saying two things; it’ll take me a little while, so don’t pack up. In Proverbs there are, particularly in the opening part of Proverbs, some basic, essential lessons. And I’m going to go through—there’s about nine or ten of them, but I want to start with two this morning. And let’s go back to chapter 1 and where it all really starts.
Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”—everything starts with fearing the Lord. A similar statement is made in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Everything starts with the fear of the Lord.
And just summing it up in Proverbs, listen to this. Proverbs says that those who fear the Lord—and then it includes all these things: prolong their life, are blessed, enjoy an abundant life, and stay free from evil. That is an all-consuming promise. They prolong life, are blessed—and it even points out, blessed beyond any earthly wealth—enjoy an abundant life, stay free from evil. Chapter 3, verse 7, “Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” That’s what happens when you fear the Lord: You turn from evil to the Lord. Proverbs says that those who fear God sleep satisfied, avoid evil, enjoy confidence in the future, receive praise, and have their prayers answered. Fear God. Fearing God is the foundation of all blessing.
Now where does fearing God start? In Luke 12—I’ll just read this to you because it’s familiar, I know, but I want to refresh your mind. When you think about fearing God, I don’t know what you think about, but this is a good place to start, in Luke chapter 12, because that is the subject here. And listen to these words, Luke 12:5: “I will warn you whom to fear”—this is Jesus—“I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” Who’s that? Not Satan. It’s God, it’s God. Fear the One who has the authority to take life and cast someone into eternal hell. Fear Him, fear Him.
And fear Him you should, because of His omniscience. He knows. Look at verse 6: “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.” You think you’re going to get away with something, you think you don’t need to fear God because He might not know? Listen, God knows when sparrows are sold. Verse 7, God knows the hairs of your head by number. That is to remind you that God sovereignly knows the most minute of all possible realities. You will not escape. I think eternal punishment is something that children need to know about, and they need to fear the One who holds the power to cast into hell. Fear Him. Understand His omniscience.
But then, verse 8, here’s the remedy: “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God.” So fear God, understand His sovereignty, and confess Christ as Savior and Lord, right; because He is the one who saves us from divine wrath. So much more could be said about fearing God. But that’s where you start. And that fear, then, embraces all of God’s commands.
But I want to mention a second thing that Proverbs makes much of: Speak the truth, speak the truth. This is a major issue in the book of Proverbs with regard to wisdom. Chapter 4, verse 24: “Put away from you a deceitful mouth, put devious speech far from you.” We all know that our fallenness and our depravity can most readily and easily come out of our mouths, and so this is a big issue in Proverbs. Chapter 5, verse 1: “My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may observe discretion and your lips may reserve knowledge.” Guard your mouth. Guard your speech. Speak the truth.
Over in chapter 6, verse 12: “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth.” In chapter 10, verse 11: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” Verse 13: “On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found.” Verse 14: “But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.”
And he goes on to say more about that, verse 18: “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, he who spreads slander is a fool.” Verse 19: “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.” All the way down to verse 31: “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, the perverted tongue will be cut out.” Verse 32 says, “The mouth of the wicked [speaks] what is perverted.”
In Proverbs, listen to this, the lips of the righteous speak truth, speak wisdom. The lips of the righteous, the words of the righteous, endure forever. They are a fountain of life, they are a tree of life. They are like choice silver; they are so satisfying they feed others, they bring healing, they bring deliverance—because they are true, patient, kind, wise, honest, pure, soft, gentle, slow to anger. They are mouths that speak for the Lord. On the other hand, the mouths of fools pour out crooked speech, folly, violence, hatred, malice, too many words, strife, ruin, slander, belittlement, gossip, disgrace, scorching fire, mischief, and perversity. God hates lies; therefore His judgment is on liars.
Listen to Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb.” How do we know that? They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. It is natural to being human to be a liar; and you hear it from the littlest kid, who said, “No, I didn’t do that,” when you know he did—because they’re born into the kingdom of darkness. Their father is the devil, and he is a liar from the beginning.
In Proverbs 6, familiar, verse 16: “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” Out of the seven only one is repeated, and that is lies, lies.
People who love God love truth, because God is truth. People who love His Word love truth, because His Word is truth. People who love Christ love truth, because He is the truth. Lying lips showed disdain for God. And in particular, it’s most interesting, in Proverbs 29:12 it says, “If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his servants become wicked.” If you have a liar in charge as a ruler, all honest people abandon him, and he is left with the liars. Proverbs 13:5 says this is because a righteous man hates lying. And Proverbs 17:7 goes so far as to say lying lips are not fitting for a ruler. Lying rulers lie to abuse people for their own gain.
Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes.” When they lie to you, they’re abusing you, they’re trying to crush you. I’ll show you an illustration of this, a very powerful one in Jeremiah chapter 5. Jeremiah, prophet, prophesying in Judah prior to the Babylonian Captivity, the coming of the Babylonians and the destruction of Jerusalem and deportation of Jewish people back to Babylon. And he is proclaiming this judgment, over and over proclaiming this judgment, and it’s hard on him. He’s weeping as he proclaims it; and he lived right up until the captivity, and even was there in the captivity of Babylon.
But I want you to notice how chapter 5 begins. Here’s the message from God: “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her.” Is that not amazing? He’s about to bring the Babylonian captivity, the massive judgment, the killing machine of the Babylonians, to slaughter the Jews. “All I want to find is one person who’s truthful—one person.”
So Jeremiah is saying, “God, come and look.” Verse 3, “O Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth?” Come and look. “You’ve smitten them, but they didn’t weaken. You’ve consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They made their faces harder than rock; they’ve refused to repent.” You’ve been so gracious. You’ve warned them and warned them and warned them and warned them, and they don’t repent.
Can you find one person who tells the truth? Let me tell you something: Any crime is possible to a liar, any crime, because he’s trained to cover it up. He’s in the business of covering it up. Those who are devoted to the truth have necessary restraint: Because you’re committed to the truth, it restrains you from certain sins because you’re not prone to lie. But if you are a liar, then there is no crime that you will not commit because you have no such restraint.
Train your children strongly in telling the truth, because that in itself, that sense of responsibility to be truthful, is a guardian over their temptations, because it will be alien to them to sin and then lie about it because they’ve been trained in speaking the truth. The truthful person has a strong aversion to lying, a strong aversion to lying. A liar—I say it again—he’ll commit any crime.
In Israel, verse 2, the people were unfaithful to their promises; verse 2: “As the Lord lives”—that’s what they would swear by: “I’m telling you the truth, as the Lord lives,” which in our vernacular would be, “I swear to God”—and then, “They swear falsely.” They’re unfaithful to their oaths because they are trained liars.
Verse 4, “Then I said, ‘They are only the poor, they are foolish; for they do not know the way of God or the ordinances of their God. I will go to the great and speak to them, for they know the way of the Lord and the ordinance of their God.’ And they too, with one accord, have broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Therefore a lion from the forest will slay them, a wolf of the deserts will destroy them, a leopard is watching their cities. Everyone who goes out of them will be torn to pieces, because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are numerous.” Why? Because they are comfortable with lying. They will do anything. They are unfaithful to their oaths. They are unfaithful to their God. They have the knowledge of God; they know the way of the Lord, at least historically. They know the ordinances of God—they violate it all the time. They’re unfaithful to their marriage partners.
Look at verse 7: “Why should I pardon you? Your sons have forsaken Me and sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the harlot’s house. They were well-fed lusty horses, each one neighing after his neighbor’s wife.” Liars will not be faithful to their spouse, their marriage partner. Liars corrupt everything everywhere.
Verse 10, “‘Go up through her vine rows and destroy, and do not execute a complete destruction; strip away her branches, for they’re not the Lord’s. For the house of Israel, the house of Judah has dealt treacherously with Me.’ They have lied about the Lord and said, ‘Not He.’” They literally deny the providences and the power of God. They’re not giving God honor for the blessings that have come their way. They’ve lied about God. They didn’t come from Him. They lie about everything.
Down in verse 19, “It’ll come about when they say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ then you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.’” “You’re going into captivity because you have been unfaithful to Me.” And the primary mark of that unfaithfulness was the incessant lies.
Down in verse 25, “Your iniquities have turned these away, your sins have withheld good from you. For wicked men are found among My people, they watch like fowlers lying in wait; they set a trap, they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit, deceit.”
Lying leaders are effective in every possible and inconceivable form of evil. And we’re experiencing it now, aren’t we? Lies, lies, lies, lies about everything. Teach your children to tell the truth.
In Jeremiah chapter 7, verse 8: “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words. You are trusting in deceptive words.” Chapter 7, verse 8, that was. Chapter 9, “Oh that my head were waters”—this is Jeremiah weeping—“and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the desert a wayfarers’ lodging place; that I might leave my people and go from them! For they’re all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; so they proceed from evil to evil.”
Again, I say, if your child is comfortable as a liar, there is no crime that that child may not commit. So teach them to fear their God and watch their words. Those are the two initial lessons; there’ll be more to come.
Father, we thank You that You have given us such clear, practical, helpful instruction. And we want to be faithful to implement that as we serve You in the role of parents and extended family. We want to be faithful to contribute to the bringing up of children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We want to give them the gospel, teach them to repent, teach them to believe, teach them to obey, teach them to honor You, first of all, in honoring their parents, and obeying all that Your Word commands.
We want to be a church, Lord, that is faithful in our personal lives and faithful in our families. God, give us much grace to rescue children from the enemy, who is so relentless and comes at them every way possible, through every media avenue, through their teachers in school, through the influences of the culture which are everywhere. Help us to counter all this, to fight against the world that seeks to destroy them by raising them to love You. I pray that You will show Your salvation to the little ones, the young ones here. I even pray that You might rescue many in other places by bringing the gospel to them, so that they may believe.