What Does Exodus 20:12 Mean?

"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(NASB)

Verse of the Day

Honouring one's father and mother is being obedient to them, listening to their advice, and complying with their instructions and wishes. This Old Testament command, to honour your father and mother, is not only repeated by the Lord Jesus in His pre-Cross ministry to Israel, but is also reiterated to the Church by Paul, in both Ephesians and Colossians: "Children, be obedient to your parents.. in the Lord, for this is right and well-pleasing to the Lord."

Parents are a child's introduction to all types of authority and they help to form their attitude towards the rule of law. The Lord has charged parents to train up a child in the way that they should go, and help to shape appropriate behaviours and attitudes towards other people and their understanding of God, and His plan of salvation.

Obedience to one's father and mother teaches children to have a reverence for God and respect for those in authority. It places the responsibility for the moral upbringing of children and their instruction in righteous living, firmly on the shoulders of the father and mother.

When the commandment to honour one's parents was first given to Israel on Mount Sinai, it not only instructed a child towards obedience, but explained the positive outcome of honouring one's parents: "That your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you."

This is the fifth commandment that was given by Moses to the people of Israel and is the first command that comes with a promise. The promise of a long life that accompanies the honouring of one's parents, may not only refer to longevity of life in this age, but may also refer to the promises that God gave to Abraham, Isaac, David, and the nation of Israel.

We read in Isaiah: "Thy dead shall live, and my dead body shall arise, awake and sing," while we read in Daniel: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence." The Bible teaches that the land that was promised by God to the nation of Israel, will one day be fulfilled - when Christ returns to rule and reign as King of kings - and it is possible that His promise to prolong the days of those that honour their parents may be referring to this future time of peace and prosperity.

However, it is the responsibility of all parents to teach their children the fear and nurture of the Lord, and it is the duty of all children to take this important instruction to heart... for those that reverence God by obeying His command to honour father and mother have the assurance that they will live long in the land which the Lord their God has given them.

Not all fathers are God-fearing and not all mothers treat their children kindly, but being the child of bad or uncaring parents does not negate this commandment. We are not instructed to honour good parents but to dishonour bad ones. We are not directed to obey our parents if they are virtuous and deal responsibly with us, but disobey those who negate their God-given responsibility!

Giving honour and respect to our father and mother is a command that should be obeyed irrespective of a parent's spiritual status - for this is right and well-pleasing to the Lord. Indeed, as Christians, we are not only required to honour our parents and submit to them, but to behave righteously with whomsoever we come in contact.

When our vertical relationship is right with God, we discover that our horizontal relationship with parents and with others is also right - and vice versa.

By God's perfect design we were placed in families. May we honour the father and mother who brought us into this world and those that influenced us in our lives for good. May we strive to walk in spirit and truth all the days of our life - and ensure that every day is lived in right relationship with our Heavenly Father - Who loves us so much that He sent His dearly loved Son to die on the Cross so that we might live in Him - by faith.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for my parents and for giving me life. Thank You for the lessons I have learned and the good times we have shared together. Forgive me for the times when I have not honoured my father and mother as I ought - for I am aware that this is dishonouring to You. From this day forward, I pray that I may honour You in all my interactions with my family and friends, and may my life be honouring to You. This I pray in Jesus' name, AMEN.

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