Long time ago, in desert far away there was a leader who was appointed by God to govern and lead an entire race of people who had been severely threatened and oppressed for hundreds of years. In a legendary rescue attempt, God uses this leader as a strategic influence to save the entire nation from probable genocide. Through this leader, God helped the nation rediscover their identity as a people and rebuild their faith. This recovery took many decades, a very long distance and countless disputes. It was truly an agonising process to get to where God had promised them.
After many years of waiting, the day approached when the people would redeem their heritage, reclaim their homeland and settle their families in their native country. This was an incredibly important time – pivotal. They were on the brink of their best days yet! However, there were rumours afoot that their leader was not going with them – he was stepping down. The people were shook. He had become a father to their race, a real life hero to their children. Through him, God had rescued and revived their destiny.
The people gathered to listen to his farewell speech. He began by recounting their journey and reminding them of the covenants they had made with their God. This was nothing new to them, but then he subtly began to shift his message. His tone and body language changed and they had not anticipated the serious concern he displayed for their future. They had been so excited for this moment – the culmination of so much, but their leader on the other hand had an air of anxiety and distress about him. He seemed very concerned about how this newfound blessing might affect their faith. More specifically, his message focussed on how their faith would be transferred to the next generation and those to come after that. There was too much at stake here and he wanted to do whatever he could to ensure the people did not make the same mistakes their parents had made.
He then profoundly challenged the hearts of every family:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This text is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and is known as The Shema. It is one of the most famous texts in the Old Testament and frequently referenced to explain the importance of family. Deuteronomy documents the message Moses gave to the Israelites before he died, just before they took possession of the land of Canaan and as leadership was transitioning to Joshua. This text is so important because it is Moses’ final challenge. If one has the opportunity to choose one’s last words, one would be especially careful and considerate in so doing. His words are deliberate and strategic for anyone wanting to leave a legacy.
This is the first in a series of blog posts unpacking The Shema. Today the big idea is around the emphasis the Bible places on the primacy of your calling to disciple the next generation. Did you see the emphasis there? Your calling. God’s call on your life. Your personal calling. If you are a parent or guardian reading this, let me remind you that your primary calling is to your family. You may have other callings around vocation, ministry etc, but these should never trump your calling to be a discipline your family into the likeness of Jesus.
Of course there are others who also will have a role to play in the discipling of your children: friends, family, your church community etc. Primarily though, this is your role, your calling and your privilege. Through the season where the virus has completely changed our lives and traditional ministries such as kid’s church, holiday clubs, camps, youth ministry, student ministry are not operating as we were before, many of us have been shaken because we don’t know where our children will be discipled into Christ’s likeness. God’s expectation in the Bible is that you lead them in this.
I want us really to consider this statement. You are the primary discipler of your kids. Mull over this. Chat about it with your spouse. If this statement overwhelms you – excellent, it should. We are meant to see the weightiness of the task and our complete and utter insufficiency and inability to accomplish it. This is intentional on God’s part. He wants us to humbly come to Him who will equip us with his strength and wisdom to disciple our kids. Aware of our weakness and confident in his strength is the best place we can be as parents.