In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, God says, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
In the King James Version, verse 7 reads, “thou shalt teach them diligently.” When I think of teaching, I think primarily of a setting where one person imparts information to others who do not have that information.
That needs to happen, but it isn’t what God is talking about in this classic passage on child training. The word translated “teach” in the KJV means “repeat.” By using the word repeat God focuses on the method of instruction, not on the instruction itself.
Every teacher knows repetition aids learning. The Master Teacher commands parents to repeat His words (contextually, the Ten Words which are the Ten Commandments) to their children, not just daily, but all throughout the day.
I’m trying to take this to heart. So, my kids have learned the Ten Commandments Song, and Allan can accurately quote them and identify them by number. At almost five, he’s showing a fairly decent understanding of what they mean.
But does Deuteronomy 6:6-7 mean I’m supposed to quote the Ten Commandments at least four times each day to my kids? Three considerations suggest a negative answer to that question.
- If there is any repetitive distillation of biblical wisdom that expounds the implications of God’s Ten Words, it is the Book of Proverbs. Yet, Proverbs is far from being dull, monotonous, or inartistic. Its literary variety in vocabulary, syntax, and structure make its repetitions interesting and lively. Proverbs is, in fact, an explicit biblical model for parental obedience to Deut. 6:6-7. Say it over and over, but beware unvaried pattern.
- The Ten Words themselves are actually applications of the two greatest words God has given us: Love God wholeheartedly and love your neighbor as yourself. In and on these two commands hangs all God desires from us. Therefore, our daily repetitions must include them, flow from them, and point to them.
- Although the Ten Words are the immediate context of Deuteronomy 6:6-7, the entire book is a restatement of God’s Torah (instructions) for His people. God promises success and blessing to those to memorize and meditate upon, not merely the Ten Words, but the totality of His Torah (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3).
That means that the totality of God’s word is to be the repeated object of conversation with our children when they rise, walk with us, sit with us, and when they go to bed. The problem is where to start.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve been doing to implement God’s method of child training. I welcome your ideas as well.
- I started quoting Psalm 23—with appropriate hand motions—when I put the boys to bed. (Thanks to Mark Cravens for this idea.) Psalm 23 led to Psalm 1 which has lead to Psalm 19—what I’m currently working on.
- When we eat breakfast together, Marianne or I play Scripture off biblegateway.com. Allan’s favorite is the entire book of Jonah. But we vary the texts.
- Sunday, we have nearly 2 hours of driving time in the car. So I am putting together a family radio program that is a mix of Scripture, children’s songs (1, 2), familiar hymns (1, 2), and children’s stories. This is also a part of my attempt to make the Sabbath a special day for the boys.
- We memorize verses during family worship.
I was reading William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life this afternoon. Chapter 18 is well-worth a parent’s time reading, especially dads. Starting on p. 147 of the PDF version, William Law introduces “Paternus,” a father who talks to his 10-year-old son about God. I was struck by the solid, Scriptural advice Paternus gives his son. In fact, I intend to incorporate some of it (in modernized English) into my repertoire of key truths I want to inculcate in my sons. Here are a couple samples:
Aspire after nothing but your own purity and perfection, and have no ambition, but to do everything in so reasonable and religious a manner, that you may be glad that God is everywhere present, and sees and observes all your actions.
I can bring you food and medicines, but have no power to turn them into your relief and nourishment. It is God alone that can do this for you. Therefore, my child, fear, and worship, and love God. Your eyes, indeed, cannot yet see Him. But all things that you see are so many marks of His power and presence, and He is nearer to you than anything that you can see. Take Him for your Lord, and Father, and Friend, look up unto Him as the fountain and cause of all the good that you have received through my hands; and reverence me only as the bearer and minister of God’s good things unto you. And He that blessed my father before I was born, will bless you when I am dead.
Originally published at Exegetical Thoughts and Biblical Theology.