The book of Deuteronomy is basically a reminder, or a refresher course, given to the nation of Israel by Moses before they enter into the land God promised them. In chapter five, Moses recapitulates the Ten Commandments. In chapter six, he reminds Israel to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). He goes on to say that all the words he is teaching them, they should also teach their children; in fact, he tells them they must teach their children “diligently” all the things that he teaches the adults (Deut. 6:7). He gives fair warning of the consequence if they should fail to teach their children God’s ways: when times get good, they will forget God (Deut. 6:10-12).
We are in many ways far removed from the nation of Israel, but in other ways we are as close as ever. Our chronology, technology, and theology may be different on this side of Messiah than it was on Moses’ side, but some things never change. Take, for example, memory. People are as forgetful today as they were in the Garden of Eden or on the plains of Jericho or on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When times are good and all is going well, we often have a tendency to think more highly of ourselves than we ought and forget the blessings of God that got us where we are. God knew this about the nation of Israel, so He told them to teach diligently His ways to their children. Since we are, and our children are, as forgetful as the Israelites, then we too ought to heed this exhortation to teach our children diligently God’s ways.
God knew, too, that the Israelites would face competing gods when they came into the land and that they and their children—especially a few generations down the road—would be tempted to forget the God of their deliverance and worship idols (Deut, 6:14). That’s another reason He commanded His people to teach His ways diligently to their children so that they would not be fooled by the liturgies of idols.
Here again, we are just like the Israelites.
We live in what some have called “the post-Christian West.” We, and our children, face competing liturgies every day. Everywhere we turn we are faced with some idol or ideology that is in direct, though sometimes subtle, competition with God for our affections, devotion, indeed for our worship. There is no neutral ground. Turn on the television, radio, internet; drive down the road and look at billboards; take a trip to the mall, the beach, the ballpark, the theater, the art gallery, or museum and what you will find is that God is being marginalized, pressed out, or even directly attacked by other gods.
Other gods often begin by wooing us to believe that we can have them alongside the One True God. But this is always a lie. Once they get their hooks in us, there’s no getting away. One may manage to cling to some watered down Christianity while worshipping a false god, but watered down becomes nothing at all in a generation or two. In order for us to pass the legacy of Christianity to our children, we must walk in God’s ways and teach them diligently to our children. Any compromise, any half-way covenant, any watered down version of love, trust, and obedience to God is the beginning of the end for our children. That’s why God commands His people now, just as He did thousands of years ago, to teach their children diligently to walk in His ways and to keep His commands. There are heavy consequences for not obeying, great blessings for obeying. In the second commandment God promises to visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deut. 5:9-10). No Christian would say he hates God, but not keeping God’s commandments and not walking in His ways is hating God.
Don’t listen to the competition. Don’t leave your children to sort out for themselves the competing liturgies of false gods. There is no neutral ground. Don’t neglect your duty as a Christian parent. Your children’s souls are at stake. And not only your children, but your children’s children and so on and so on. Teach them diligently the ways of God, the ways of life, that they might love God, keep His commandments, and live.