“I have chosen [Abraham], that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH by doing righteousness and justice, so that YHWH may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19).
One of the major reasons YHWH chose Abraham was so that he would command his children after him. While our children certainly have the right to choose to not follow YHWH when they are grown, what responsibilities do parents have in training and commanding their children?
That he may command his children — tsavah (Strong’s #6680): direct, charge, order.
To keep the way of YHWH — shamar (Strong’s #8104): watch, preserve.
By doing righteousness — tsedaqah (Strong’s #6666): ethics, conduct toward others.
And justice — mishpat (Strong’s #4941): the act of deciding a case.
I notice several things from studying this verse. First, Abraham was supposed to take the initiative and direct, command, charge, and order his children. God didn’t feel that the obedience of Abraham’s children was an optional thing.
As Ephesians 6:4 says, we are to “bring them up in the instruction and admonition of the Master” (ISR). However, even though “fathers, do not provoke your children” (ISR), fathers are still to command.
I think it takes practice to learn a commanding mindset. For instance, we are talking about getting a new puppy sometime this winter. When that puppy comes into our home, I will love him and snuggle him, but I will also pull myself up to my full height and be the “alpha dog” in our home, so that our puppy will learn to not wet on the carpet, chew our shoes, jump on the neighbors, or bark at every sound. If the dog is in our home, I must command the dog and train the dog, or I’ll have drudgery rather than cuteness. I want a buddy, but I must be a boss first.
Abraham was to guard (“keep”) the way of YHWH in his household. When we first come to Torah, we are struggling to just learn about God’s commands. As time continues, though, and temptations come to loosen up a little here and a little there (“Must we always be so odd?”), we are confronted with the need to guard His commands. If the Torah is to be preserved not only in our own hearts but also decades later in the hearts of our children and grandchildren, we must certainly guard it continuously.
Righteousness and Justice
Two specific things that Abraham and his children were to do were righteousness and justice. These are very specific commands that relate to how others are treated. First, we must command our children to be sure they are being ethical toward their siblings and to us as their parents. This is what is meant by righteousness.
The ten commandments are a good place to start. We simply cannot tolerate any stealing, anger (which is killing, according to Yeshua in Matthew 6:21-22), coveting, and disobedience to parents. These things are wrong. They are not mistakes, innocent cuteness or bad habits. They are sin, and we cannot allow them in our home.
We must also learn to act in justice, which in our homes means that we decide cases fairly and apply justice according to the guidelines of Torah. For instance:
- Rebellious attitudes and disobedience are capital offenses requiring immediate discipline.
- Stealing is not permitted in the name of sharing, and items taken from other children must be paid back four- or five-fold.
- Hitting is the same as murder, and evil speech is also killing.
As you read through the Torah through this year, pay close attention to the justice God meets out, and work to follow His righteous example in your home. (See Exodus 21-23 for some specific examples.)
Doorposts and Gates
Christine Miller recently wrote,
“Did you ever notice that the command to write the Law applies to entrances? On the doorposts of the house is at the entrance to the house. On the gates of the city is at the entrance to the city. And on the stones across the Jordan (Deuteronomy 27:2-3) is at the entrance to the Land. It is as if to say, ‘This Law applies to all who enter here.'”
When Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tells us to write the commandments of YHWH on the doorposts of our houses and on our gates, it is more than just simply placing a plaque by the front door or a mezuzah on the door frame. We are to declare to all who enter and to all who live within that “this Law applies to all.”
For children, obedience is not to be optional. We are to command our children and household after us, to guard the way of YHWH. Our children won’t live within our gates forever, but as long as they’re here, they need to know that the Torah applies to all within the house. Of course, we need to be sure that any invited guests (including those who enter via television, computer, and books) also realize that the Law of YHWH applies to them as well, for as long as they are visiting.
What did Paul tell the believers in Corinth to do with sin in their congregation?
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Master Yeshua and my spirit is present, with the power of our Master Yeshua, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of YHWH.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For the Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler— not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the assembly whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you'” (1 Corinthians 5, ESV).
When your child sins, take away their rights of “citizenship” in your home. By his sin, he is saying that he will not abide by the Law of Torah that is in place in your home.
Does your child feel that he has “rights” and can do whatever he wants with his time and possessions? Teach him that within your doorposts and in your gates, he is a merely a citizen and can lose those privileges by trespassing the Law of the land.
A child has to earn the right to privileges by following the rules of your home. He must follow the torah of the home.
On the contrary, we often act as if parents are the slaves of children. We train them to be selfish and self-centered by not requiring them to submit to Law.
(See also Deuteronomy 13:5-6; 17:7, 12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 24:7.)
It is one thing to say that those within our homes must obey Torah, but in the case of our children, it’s quite another to enforce this.
Eli was a man who had trouble with this.
“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know YHWH” (1 Samuel 2:12-13).
“But they would not listen to the voice of their father” (1 Samuel 2:25).
“I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 2:13).
Notice that Eli’s sons did not know YHWH or obey Him. In addition, they would not listen to the voice of their father. Meanwhile, he knew about the iniquity of his sons, yet he did not restrain them. These are powerful words!
God will hold us responsible if we will not restrain evil in our home.
On a practical note, it is much easier to start as we mean to go on. Teach your very youngest children, at an early age, to listen to your voice. When your small toddler does something evil, restrain him or her! Don’t turn your eye away. Don’t say it’s cute. Don’t pretend it’s a phase that will pass. Instead, take action. Show your love for God by guarding His Torah within the gates of your home. Rise up and restrain evil!
Torah as Schoolmaster
“Accordingly, the Torah functioned as a custodian until the Messiah came, so that we might be declared righteous on the ground of trusting and being faithful” (Galatians 3:24, CJB).
The Torah is our custodian or “schoolmaster” (KJV), because it points us to our need of a Savior and Messiah. However, once His Spirit writes the Torah on our hearts, we no longer need the Torah as only legalism. We do it from the heart because we want to, not from the exterior, from fear of punishment.
However, we should not expect our young children to be ready to obey from the heart. That is our goal, but when they haven’t arrived yet, we need to step in as custodians and schoolmasters, requiring obedience “because I said so” until the internal motivation out of love for YHWH matures.
Do Not Despair
I’m not a master of the Hebrew language, so I don’t know why different English translations come up with different meanings for Proverbs 19:18.
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18, KJV).
“Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (Proverbs 19:18, ESV).
However, we can learn something from both. First of all, we see that we need to teach and train our children early, while there is still hope.
It’s not very fun to “command our children” as Abraham did, because we often get a harvest of tears. Crying is agonizing, so we tend to find ourselves avoiding conflict by diverting our children’s attention to something else, rather than training, disciplining, and restraining evil.
However, if I think about the fact that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), we see that failure to discipline is setting our hearts on putting them to death! This was the end result of Eli’s failure to restrain his two sons’ evil. Can you imagine the heartache and agony?
We would do well to remember this next time we feel too tired to bother getting off the couch to train our children. A “short” time of crying is worth the eternal weight of glory of coming generations of obedience and of “godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). Do it now, or put up with their evil and its consequences for the rest of your lives.
“Know therefore that YHWH your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).