Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”

Exodus 20:12

Recently, one of my granddaughters pledged her love to her husband-to-be following his pledge to her.  What an exalted place God and true tradition have given to marriage!  And even the historical ceremony respects marriage and the family in asking, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” There’s an implied union already in existence now to be pre-empted by the new union of husband and wife.  And let me add that marriage is a “creation ordinance.”  

 With a blurring of thinking regarding the origin of the universe in general, and of Mankind in particular, there has followed in western culture a denial of the sacredness of marriage and the vows involved.  It is as though God Himself had or has nothing to do with it.  But in our Christian heritage, it has been called a “creation ordinance.”  This means that marriage has been built in to our universe from the very beginning.  And even the United States government takes note and regulates certain aspects of the new relationship!  It’s not something we’ve just dreamed up! And while some may wonder about this, marriage as an institution was established before man’s fall into sin.  It is God Who created Mankind male and female from the very start.  And it was God’s intent that man and woman be united to one another in love and faithfulness, and that by virtue of their union, children would be born.   Marriage is so fundamental to an understanding of reality: namely, who we are and how we got here.  And to put a final touch to it, Jesus said this about its permanence: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  

Now this fifth commandment builds on this.  There is a sacredness about the vows in a marriage ceremony which sets it apart with a “Do Not Touch”  sign.  And let me remind anyone reading this, as in all vows, the promises made are before God as an act of worship, not just to the marriage partners and in the presence of participating witnesses. This, of course, does not pre-empt a great happiness in the ceremony, but in principle looks to God to bless the new union.  A biblical life is lived 24/7 in the presence of God!

May I now say that a marriage that has been based on the principles of God’s holy Word and lived out accordingly is a child’s richest legacy!  This fifth commandment is, as a matter of fact, addressed to children, not to the parents.  Why is this? Simply put, the children inherit the legacy of their parents.  As they honor it, their children also learn to do the same, and so the blessing continues to flow from generation to generation.  It is called “the commandment with a promise.”  (Ephesians 6:2)

Not long ago, I spent three Lord’s days in Ontario, Canada, ministering the Word with the three congregations in the area: Ottawa, Almonte, and Russell.  It was a warm time in Christian fellowship and I was hosted in many homes.  What a gratifying experience to share in their meals and then participate in the reading of the Word of God and praying.  It was simply “family worship,” a tradition I inherited from my parents and which I and my sons continue to practice.  But the beautiful thing to me was that it was also in their tradition!  My tradition was largely from a Scottish background; some of theirs was Dutch.  Yes, it’s in the heritage of “reformed” churches that families worship together daily.  I say, I was refreshed!

Now there are many ways to honor our parents, but probably nothing like both embracing and following their Christian faith.  And it’s true: the fifth commandment confronts us with this challenge.  My wife Floy grew up in a background in which her mother’s family were traditionally Christian, but the practice of family worship was new to her.  She loved it!  And we enjoyed it throughout our married life – all sixty-plus years of it.  And we taught it by practice to our sons.  It was part of our lifestyle.  So again, I took great joy in visiting these homes in Canada where devotional worship was part of the fare.  And these hosts and hostesses of mine were for the most part the descendants of generations of believers!  And the blessing pervaded their homes!

 Don’t lose your legacy!  Teach your children to honor their parents by worship!

Ken G Smith

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