When my first child was born I remember thinking, “I want to protect every minute of this new life”, because she was so precious, beautiful and vulnerable. Realizing that these were her first breaths of life I felt an overwhelming responsibility to ensure that she learn all of the right lessons in life - starting with the story of God. From that point on, I became her father, teacher, caregiver, and counselor. My resolve was to approach fatherhood with that end in mind because the sooner she learned the true story of life the better prepared she would be to make tough choices. At that very moment I made up my mind that my daughter and all of my children after her would have every opportunity to know their God and both my wife and I would be there to facilitate that experience.
The years have passed since the birth of my daughter and she now has two younger brothers. Three lives in my care and the stakes are higher. Over the years, my wife and I often gravitate to God and his church for guidance and sanity when we face the responsibility of making disciples of our children every day. We marvel with excitement when we see them grow in their awareness of God! There is a uniquely intimate relationship with God that they are building and it makes me happy and proud.
I often wonder what would happen if I had the intent to help my children but not the resources to achieve that goal. Or, what if I did things on my own without the help of my God, my wife and the church. Where would I start? What would my priorities be? How would it end? What if I get it all wrong?
In the Old Testament God creates a story line that answers some of those questions. The book of Deuteronomy gives us lessons about relationships between family members: husband and wife; parents and children; and between God and his people –
In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. (Deuteronomy 1:3 NIV)
From this point on Moses goes on to create the environment that the people of God needed to build in order to have a deep, meaningful life with their God and fulfill his plan for them. This plan not only fulfilled what the people of God at that present time needed but it also laid a foundation for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham – an Eternal King. You’ll find, after reading the book of Deuteronomy that God was looking out for the best interest of those he loved and sought to prepare them to grow up as mature men and women ready to make tough choices about the present life and life eternal –
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (6:4)
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6:5)
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (30:19)
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. (6:6)
See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. (4:5)
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (8:3)
Deuteronomy was no simple book, it was a journal with the greatest lessons and commandments from a Father to his children. Yet, in 2nd Kings this amazing journal was somehow was forgotten and ignored for up to 77 years (during the 55 year reign of Manasseh and 22 years of Amon's reign). The priests who were responsible for access to the book and sharing with the people were not doing their job and as a result the people were without resources: the lessons, insights and thoughts of God to grow and mature. They were relying on their own strength.
But there was hope for the people of God. In the book of 2 Kings, chapter 2 and verse 8 we find that Hilkiah the high priest tells Shaphan that he found the Book of the Law (also referred to as the 2nd Law of Moses) in the temple courts! He gave it to Shaphan the secretary who read it to the young King Josiah and scripture tells us that Josiah tore his clothes in response to the words he was hearing for the first time –
When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Micaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the LORD that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us. 2 Kings 2:11-3 (NIV)
In the same way that the people of God, during the reign of King Josiah were overwhelmed and cut to the heart when they heard the word of their Father, I was overwhelmed and cut to the heart when I read about God through the Old and New Testament at age twenty-one. Proverbs 14:12 says that there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death. The life I was living at that time was void of God and I did not even realize it.
The story of King Josiah serves as a reminder that we, as the people of God, will benefit from reading our Bibles and committing ourselves to living out those wonderful lessons, principles, decrees, and commandments. Every New Year we are allotted 365 days, by focusing on the end in mind we can give priority to the things that matter most. Choosing to live like Matthew 4:4 (NIV) says, “Not by bread alone but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God”. We cannot afford to ignore or forget because our next generation will suffer. We are the keepers of some of the most amazing words ever written and our children deserve the best.
Contributed by Eddie Orantes.