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“HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER”

a 10 Commandments series - #4 a
1 Samuel 24:1-7

Tisch Mills, Wisconsin is a little unincorporated community that sits ever so quietly and inconspicuously
just west of Lake Michigan in the woods of northeastern Wisconsin. On my recent trip to Wisconsin for my
brother-in-law’s ordination, I passed through Tisch Mills about a half dozen times, noticing with a chuckle the sign
that marks the beginning and the end of the town. On each side of town, there was a banner that read, “Welcome
to Tisch Mills. No mayor! No city council! Life is good!”
I’m sure that the sign was meant to be a bit humorous, but at the same time, I imagine that there was an
element of honesty to its message. Life is good in Tisch Mills because there aren’t any crooked politicians in this
little town to screw things up and take advantage of the townspeople by raising their taxes and unfairly placing on
them a financial burden. Life is good because everybody here is responsible for themselves and we don’t need
anyone to stand over us and tell us what to do. Everybody just looks out for everybody else, and as long as people
are willing to be responsible citizens, we don’t need to have authority figures legislating on our behalf.
It’s quite a utopian concept isn’t it, a place where people can live in peace without “Big Brother” stepping in.
On the other hand, while that arrangement might work in Tisch Mills, Wisconsin, I think it’s safe to say that a lack
of government, a lack of formal authority in general would not be so beneficial in most other places, in bigger
metropolitan areas, and even in our own city of Monroe.
Today, we’re going to spend our time of meditation discussing the 4th commandment, the first and foremost
commandment of the second table of the law. The first three commandments specifically dealt with the believer’s
relationship with God, where God is protecting his glory, his name and reputation, and his Word of salvation.
With the fourth commandment, the Lord turns our attention to our relationship with our fellow man, and begins
with an encouragement, a command to honor our father and mother, a commandment which includes honoring all
who are placed in authority over us by God in order to bless us – starting in the home with parental authorities,
continuing in the church with spiritual authorities, and extending into our world with civil authorities. “Honor your
father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” What does this mean?
“We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority, but honor, serve and
obey them and give them love and respect.”
Honor, service, obedience, love, respect, quite a long list of responsibilities that we owe to the authority
figures that God places over us, especially difficult to put into practice when the authorities of home, church and
country fail to serve us in the way that God established them to serve, as a benefit and a blessing to us for both body
and soul.
Put yourself into the shoes of David this morning. How difficult would it be to show honor and respect to a
man who was chasing you down and trying with all his might to take your life, even going to the extreme in chapter
22 of 1 Samuel of killing those who gave you help and consolation when needed? How difficult would it be for
you to swallow your sense of vengeance, your pride and your anger to give honor and obedience to one who has so
wronged you, to bow down as David did in verse 8, paying homage in humble obedience to the anointed of the
Lord, who clearly had failed in the office to which God has called him? Wouldn’t it be near impossible? You even
hear justification of rebellion in the words of the men who were with David in the cave, “Here is the day of which the
Lord said to you, “Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.”
In other words, “Here’s your chance David. Here’s your chance to get him back for all the garbage he put you
through. Do it! Kill him! You have every right because of how awful he has been to you!”
How quickly our hearts and minds justify rebellion against God’s appointed leaders. When we’re children,
it’s as simple as mom or dad wanting us to do something we don’t want to do, or commanding us not to do
something we want to do, sparking that fire of rebellion inside of us, “I hate you, mom! I hate you, dad! You can’t
tell me what to do. You’re not the boss of me,” after which you have the inevitable “Who’s the Boss” argument
between child and parent, that argument for equality where God has not established equality.
“You’re not the boss of me!” Like a broken record, we sound that that rhapsody of rebellion ad nauseum, a
sinful tune that commences at the moment of conception and doesn’t go away. In fact, it grows, it becomes louder
and more belligerent. That fire of rebellion burns more furiously as the years go by, and the justification of it
against God’s representatives in the home, in the church and in the country becomes much more systematic.
“Pastor, you can’t tell me what to do! You can’t tell me that what I’m doing is sinful. You’re not the boss of me! I
determine what is right for myself. I don’t need some 30 year old kid to tell me how to act!” “Mom and dad, you
were mean to me, you yelled at me, you sent me to my room, I don’t love you anymore.” Oh, the justification!
And I suppose if we were simply to look at the resumé of one’s actions, there truly isn’t one person in this
world who is more worthy than another for honor and respect. In a sense, every human being shares an equality,
whether you are an ordinary citizen or the Leader of the Free World. Every single person in this world has failed to
serve, love and obey God and his commandments. Whether it’s parents and children, citizens and government,
pastor and congregation, King David in his 14th Psalm reminds us all, “There is no one who does good, not even one!”
Every one of us is equal before God when it comes to our eternal welfare, and every one of us, no matter what walk
of life God has called you to, has a need to flee to the loving arms of the Savior Jesus. Parents are sinful.
Government officials are sinful. Pastors are sinful, and as God’s representatives for order and blessing in the world,
it is all the more necessary for authority figures, whom God has called to serve the souls of this world in various
capacities, both to bless the body and the soul, to understand their own failings, their own rebellious sins against
God so that they can find solace in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and lead those entrusted to their
care to the same cross, the same Paschal Lamb, the same empty Easter tomb for lasting and real hope of everlasting
life.
That’s why, dear fellow servants of God, that God’s representatives are due all those things listed in the
explanation of the catechism, not because of who they are, but because of the offices to which they have been called
by God to bless and keep you safe both in faith and in life – parents, as God’s primary caregivers for their children,
government as God’s keepers of order, so that the gospel of Jesus Christ may continue to be communicated to the
salvation of souls, and pastors, teachers and other church leaders as under-shepherds, who take the little lambs of
God and lead them through the valley of the shadow of death, to the green pastures of heaven.
David got that! After he had cut the robe of Saul, as if to say, “Aha, see? I could’ve killed you, Saul, but I
chose in my gracious nature not to,” After he had cut the corner of his robe, he was found to be in a position of
humble submission, not because the man, Saul was so great. In fact, you could easily make the case that he was
corrupt beyond belief. It was because, as the Lord’s representative, he was a source of blessing. “The Lord forbid
that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s
anointed.”
Now, while this command deals chiefly with the response of God’s people to the blessing of appointed
leaders and representatives, who offer many blessings for body and soul, there is another side to consider, from the
standpoint of the authorities themselves, specifically that of mothers and fathers. There is a reason that the
commandment is worded the way that it is, “Honor your father and mother...” There is a reason that God sets
aside mothers and fathers specifically. Luther explains well in the Large Catechism: “God calls special attention to
mothers and fathers because through them he gives us so many blessings; our daily needs such as food, clothing and shelter,
instruction in his Word; guidance for life and loving concern.”
Fellow parents, the commandment itself catalogues a long list of things that are owed to you because you are
walking in that very special bless-ed life of being a parent. Understand though, that those blessings do not come
without the highest of responsibility. You are to be honored next to God himself by your children not because of
who you are or what you do, because if you’re like me you will fail on a daily basis in your role as a parent.
Truthfully, at the end of every day I shake my head at myself for the many ways that I have failed my children,
asking the good and great Heavenly father to give me another day, another chance to fulfill his purposes through
me. Your are to be honored highly and greatly for what it is God has called you to do for your children, which is to
provide for their daily welfare, but most especially you are to provide for their spiritual education and eternal well-
being.
The words of Deuteronomy chapter 6:6-9 are strong and poignant: “These words I tell you today shall be on
your heart. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit down in your house, and when you walk along
the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
You are your children’s connection to the Word of God until they come to an age of increased
independence and therefore, you serve them as their connection to the cross. That’s your primary role as a Christian
parent, not just to put food on the table and a roof over their head and clothes on their back. Your role as a
Christian parent, as God’s authority in your own home is to take your little lambs by the hand and place them in
the loving arms of the Savior Jesus, so that he may bless them with the forgiveness that only he can offer, so that he
can offer to them the same everlasting promises that he offers to you – salvation from sin through his holy sacrifice
on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. You are to set for them an example of godly living so that they may
know how to live in a way that honors and glorifies Jesus and proclaims him to the world. And you are to lead
them, time and again, to the means of grace, the Word and sacrament, so that their faith may be strengthened, and
so that when they grow up and become parents themselves, they may know by faith to extend the same blessings to
their children and to generations beyond, that the blessings of Christ and his Word will not be lost, but enjoyed in
fullest measure.
“No mayor! No city council! Life is good!” A funny little sentiment from a small northern Wisconsin
town. But really, isn’t the opposite really true? Life is good because God has placed his representatives into our
lives, parents to provide for our daily needs and our spiritual upbringing, government to keep order so that the
church may continue to proclaim Christ-crucified, and under-shepherds who take God’s people by the hand and
lead them to the Savior. For all those rich blessings so readily poured out for all of us, give thanks to God for them,
and honor them “that it may go well with you, and you will enjoy long life on the earth.” Amen.