In the previous two Q&As, we discussed the fact that children of at least one converted parent are “sanctified” or “holy” in God’s eyes, which means that they can have a special and intimate relationship with God; that they CAN speak to God, expecting to be heard, and that they can experience and obtain an answer from God. We pointed out that they are not cut off from God the Father, but that they must make the decision of wanting to have continuing contact with God, by not neglecting or forsaking the Way of God.
We also discussed the blessing of little children and the fact that God assigns guardian angels to them for their protection, so that they can reach their potential of becoming baptized and ultimately born-again members in the God Family. We also showed that it is eventually the decision of the child or teenager or young adult as to how to conduct his or her Way of Life and whether or not to maintain a relationship with God.
Still, as we alluded to in the previous two Q&As, the teaching and conduct of parents can have great influence on the decision of the children to either become and stay loyal to God or to reject Him. In regard to Sabbath observance, we pointed out that “those children who are being taught and raised by their converted parents must come to the point where they prove for themselves that what they are being taught is true. They might have developed a ‘habit,’ due to the teaching and practice of their parents, to ‘keep’ the Sabbath by ‘going to church’ that day and sitting quietly in services for two hours, but that alone is never enough. Rather, they must prove for themselves in due time that God demands of them the keeping of the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days; the abstention from unclean meat; and the rejection of observing Sunday, Christmas, Easter or Halloween—again, no matter the costs and circumstances.”
This applies, as we explained, to all areas of life. In this regard, the example of parents is very important. For instance, when parents keep the Sabbath just as a matter of routine, but they are doing so grudgingly and with resentment and the attitude that it is a burden, and “we can hardly wait for when the Sabbath is over so we can do our own thing,” they give very mixed signals to the child as to the sanctity of the Sabbath and that it is supposed to be a day of joy.
We stated this in our free booklet, “The Key to Happy Marriages and Families”:
“In order to be able to teach God’s word effectively, it must first be settled in the hearts of the teachers themselves. Notice Deuteronomy 6:6–7, ‘And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.’
“If the words of God are NOT in our hearts, HOW CAN WE teach them diligently to our children? If we ourselves are not sure whether God’s instructions always apply in every situation without fail, how CAN we teach our children or teens that they do? If we doubt whether it is ALWAYS right NOT to lie, NOT to steal, NOT to kill, NOT to break the Sabbath, NOT to cheat on our wife or husband, how CAN we bring up our children or teens in the admonition of the Lord?”
It is true, as we pointed out in the previous Q&A, that the righteousness of parents does not automatically mean that their children become and stay righteous; but converted parents who behave unrighteously certainly have a bad influence on the upbringing of their children. At the same time, righteous parents who behave righteously most certainly have a good influence on the upbringing of their children, helping them to make the right decision of staying loyal to God and responding to His calling.
The Bible emphasizes time and again that children will follow the example of parents who behave badly. The child of an alcoholic or of a homosexual parent may easily adopt that lifestyle. A father who beats his wife may raise a son who may do the same later to his wife. Abraham lied when he said that his wife was his sister (Genesis 20:2,13); and his son Isaac committed the same sin (Genesis 26:6-7).
David lusted after Bathsheba, but he also took other women, including Maacah, a Geshurite or Canaanite princess (something which God had forbidden; compare Deuteronomy 7:3). Their son Absalom (2 Samuel 3:3) killed his half-brother Amnon who had raped Absolom’s sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-14). David’s son Solomon committed terrible sins when he married pagan wives and followed their pagan religion.
We pointed out in the previous Q&A that God will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those children who hate God (Exodus 20:5). Friedman, Commentary on the Torah, points out that this “may refer to the way in which [bad] behavior recurs through generations in a family.”
Christ emphasized that wicked fathers may bring up wicked children. He explained in Matthew 23:29-35 that even though the children might pretend to have acted differently, they would have done the same thing as their fathers did, as they were engaged in the same kind of practice as their fathers:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”
This terrible and vicious “circle of life” is, sadly, repeated time and time again. God prophesies that the last generation of Americans and Brits will go into captivity, and Leviticus 26:37-39 explains why: “… you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. And those of you who are left shall waste away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; also in their fathers’ iniquities, which are with them, they shall waste away.”
We emphasize that this development does not have to be automatic. A son can see the wickedness of his father and decide NOT to live that way (Ezekiel 18:14-17). This is especially true, in our context of sanctification, when a child was brought up in the church but then experiences that his parents leave and go back into the world. That child does not need to follow his parents’ example. God had sanctified him or her, and that sanctification or holiness does not automatically cease to exist when the parents leave God’s Way of Life. But it goes without saying that their bad example might have a tremendously bad influence on the child; and the child or teen or young adult must turn to God with all his or her might to maintain his or her sanctified relationship with Him.
On the other hand, parents who live God’s Way of Life and don’t deviate from it have a very positive influence on the child’s development. God promises children tremendous blessings if they stay righteous (Psalm 103:17-18; Proverbs 20:7; Deuteronomy 4:40). God even offers physical protection in these terrible times to come, at a place of safety here on earth, for righteous parents and their children: “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).
God speaks very clearly about the responsibility of the parents when He says: “Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 12:28). But God makes clear that when it comes to observing the law of God, more is necessary than just “keeping” it, so that parents can be great examples:
“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
We all will, to an extent, adopt the bad behavior of our parents. And as they are called upon to repent of it, we, as their children, must do likewise, and the same is true for our children. This command to repent applies also to the “children” of the last generation of Americans and Brits in captivity:
“But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt—then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land” (Leviticus 26:40-42).
As the new generation of Israel was called upon to enter into a covenant relationship with God at Moab, so each of us—grandparent, parent, children and grandchildren—is individually challenged to make that personal decision to follow God and not to walk away. It is interesting to read the words of Moses to that new generation of people who were ready to enter the Promised Land:
“The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers–to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’ And I spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you’” (Deuteronomy 1:6-9).
Moses reiterates events which had happened 40 years earlier. Most who were assembled now were not even alive when these events had taken place. Still, Moses addresses them directly in saying that he spoke to them. What had happened 40 years earlier had great consequences for the new generation. In Deuteronomy 1:21, Moses said to them: “Look, the LORD your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.”
The word in Hebrew for “you” is in the singular; Moses addresses everyone individually, because everyone had to make the individual decision to follow God. And so, Moses states this in Deuteronomy 5:2-3:
“The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.”
Technically, God did not make the covenant at Horeb with the new generation as most were not even alive at that time. But in a sense, God did.
In Hebrew, it says, literally:
“… but with us! We! These! Here! Today! All of us! Living!”
Friedman, Commentary on the Torah, explains:
“Moses speaks to the people in front of him as if they had all been at Sinai forty years earlier. Now he says explicitly, powerfully, unmistakably, with seven different words: Each generation must see themselves as personally standing at Sinai, not just inheriting their parents’ covenant, but as making the covenant themselves. It is a present, living commitment.”
Parents might have entered into the New Covenant relationship at the time of their baptism. But this will not bring their children automatically to the point where they also become baptized. It is up to them. But converted parents can and must help.
Let us conclude with these questions and remarks:
Are you a converted parent? Make sure that you do whatever you can to help your child to live God’s Way of Life.
Are you a sanctified child? Then God has preordained you before you were born to be called in this day and age to have a special relationship with Him and to come to Him. He has chosen YOU and given YOU the opportunity now to become a part His very Family. Value this precious and priceless gift very highly.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link