Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Law and Grace (13) Honour Parents

The Israelites had come out of a slave/empire culture. In Egypt, the empire took precedence over family. The best young men were taken to work at the king’s court. Joseph and Daniel are examples. Attractive young girls were taken for the kings harem. A woman could be taken by the slave master, even if she was married. Young people were trained to honour their slavemaster, not their parents. Many young people did not even know their parents well. The Pharaoh owned all the land in Egypt. He could give land to anyone he chose, but he could also take it back whenever he was so inclined.

God was creating a new family/tribe culture in the promised land. Land would be assigned to families and tribes. This culture would have to be totally different. The strength of the culture would grow out of family life. The economic strength would come through tribal groupings.

Honouring parents was not a way of earning righteousness. It was an important feature of the new life that God was giving his people in the new land. He wanted everyone of his people to have a much better life than they had had in Egypt. To achieve this they would have to be organised in a totally different way. They would be doing something totally different that had not been done before. No models existed in other lands for the people to copy.

God gave the command to honour parents, so that the people would switch their allegiance from a powerful ruler and his hegemons onto families and their tribal group. If God had not given this command, the people might have slipped back into the old way, and turned one of their leaders into an emperor (they did this in Samuels time, when they took a king). The command was prompter to encourage the people to live in the new way that God had chosen for them, not a test of righteousness.

God promised that if they honoured their parents, things would go well for them in the land. Those who honoured their parents were not earning a better life. By respecting their parents and committing themselves to tribal unity, they were positioning themselves to receive the blessing that God had already committed to giving to them. There was no other way it could be received.

They were not earning a place in the new land, they were learning how to live in it. This is the same situation as those who receive the gospel. Obeying the voice of the spirit does not earn us the abundant life, but we need to follow his leading to receive all that Jesus earned for us by dying on the cross. If we refuse to obey Jesus and ignore the Holy Spirit, we will miss out on much of what is promised to us.

1 comment:

Ghengis7777 said...

An important aspect of honouring parents is to provide for them in their old age. Efforts to avoid this obligation led to the criticism against the practise of declaring possessions as "corban" which was meant to make such assets beyond the reach of this commandment.

Today, our highly individualistic self sufficient societies mean that caring for the elderly is difficult. For example, one way to care for them is to accommodate them in the homes of their children.

Living with extended family is branded as "surrendering" to old age. Thus grandchildren miss out on the benefits of enjoying their grandparents to the extent they would if they were living together.

Instead, the elderly squander their wealth on expensive retirement village accommodation while their children struggle to save a deposit for their first home, pay off student debt or repay mortgages.
Life in these villages is not so utopia either. Surrounded by other elderly people, talk is focussed on medical advice and standard of care, and funerals.

Of course, living together is not as easy as it sounds anymore, because we have lost the skills of living in close proximity to one another.