In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses challenges the People of Israel to “listen up!” That’s what the first word of the passage says. It is usually translated, “hear.” But in Hebrew thought the word actually means to “Listen up, and obey.” That’s a pretty powerful start to the passage.
There is only one true God—the LORD. This God, you must love with all of your existence. The LORD’s commands must be upon your heart so your faith will continue in your family for generations to come. God knows children imitate their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. In Hebrew thought family is extremely important, and God is commanding families this way—“Now you all must intensely impress them [the commandments] upon your children.”
There are 613 commandments in Judaism, but the focus is on the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God on two stone tablets. The remaining 603 commandments can be organized into supporting groups as fences surrounding each of the Ten Commandments. The LORD created a moral universe. These commandments are proof of His love for you in a fallen world. Since each of these Ten Commandments are like huge, heavy stones, they will not budge. You only break yourself against them. Look at all the broken lives around you. Moses affirmed the importance of living spiritual truth 24/7 before your offspring.
The Hebrew verb translated impress or teach diligently means “to sharpen or to point.” With the special use of this Hebrew verb, Moses presented a powerful illustration. A child’s heart is like a wet clay tablet where parents and grandparents are writing spiritual truths with a stylus, a pointed pencil-type tool. In antiquity, clay tablets contained a cuneiform type of inscription, very complex, and the formation had to be very intentional to be readable.
Similarly, in the spiritual formation of a child, spiritual truths must intensely, intentionally, and carefully be inscribed on the wet clay of a child’s heart. When writing on a clay tablet, if a letter was incorrectly formed, the real message would be difficult to decipher. There must be as much careful, intentional effort in what parents and grandparents say and do, how they live life, and what their home is like to make the impression that faith is for real. According to Moses, all of life provides opportunities to demonstrate one’s spiritual convictions before the next generation and to write those deep-rooted, heart-felt spiritual truths on the wet clay of the hearts of children.
The wet clay of a child’s heart eventually hardens. Traditionally, the Hebrew sages taught this typically happened as the teen years began. The impression of God’s truth must be deeply written on the child’s heart while he or she is very young. Solomon wrote, Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right, Proverbs 20:11. From conception through childhood, a child’s heart must be intensely sharpened spiritually and pointed to spiritual insights intentionally. This is the Divine Plan of D6. Most who come to the LORD will do so by the age of thirteen, while the clay of their heart is soft. We must reach children before their hearts are hardened and it becomes more difficult to teach spiritual truths. That is why Jesus spoke a curse against those who offend children, causing them to loose faith—Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea, Matthew 18:6.
When pastoring, I taught parents that everything depended on the spiritual insights that were engraved and inscribed on the wet clay of their children’s hearts and how well they themselves lived that spiritual truth before their children.
Certainly, individuals can be saved at any age of life. But the heart of every child is being impressed with a worldview as they grow, whether it is with biblical truth or a humanistic worldview. It is vitally important that Christian families are intentionally impressing God’s truth on the soft clay of their children’s hearts.
Therefore, who will “listen up and obey” the Mosaic challenge to intensely impress spiritual truths upon the hearts of their children? If you are willing to do that, then you possess the Divine Promise of Proverbs 22:6—Teach a very young child concerning his life’s pathway, and then as he becomes older, he will never depart from it.
(Originally published at flbc.edu)
- Why Spiritual Truth Must Be Impressed, Intentionally, Upon A Child’s Heart - February 28, 2020
We still miss your teaching Oliver!