Whispering God's Words to our Children
Eugene Peterson, pastor and biblical scholar, died last week. He is most well- known for The Message, his translation of the Bible. At his funeral last Monday, his son said that his dad really had only one sermon. He said that his dad had whispered the message of this sermon into his heart for 50 years. They were words that his dad said over him as he slept as a child: “God loves you. God is on your side. He is coming after you. He is relentless.”
This is what Moses commanded Israelite parents to do. Before entering the land, Moses tells the Israelites that when they enter the land, they are going to need to be diligent about remembering God’s commandments. He knows that they are entering a land with alternative ways of living. He knows that they will be tempted to leave Yahweh’s ways behind and opt for other ways. Therefore, he says “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise (Dt. 6:6-7). Moses is telling parents to do for their children what Eugene Peterson did for his son: whisper God’s commands into your child’s heart relentlessly. If you don’t, they will forget about Yahweh’s words and listen to somebody else’s.
Last Sunday in a children’s sermon, I talked about these words from Deuteronomy, which follow the words: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”(6.5). I invited the kids to recite this central commandment and surround their life with them: “Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (6.8-9).” I suggested that they put them on the refrigerator, the bedroom and the TV. Later that day a mother sent me a video of her three year old daughter making a card for someone. On the top of the card she pretended to write what she said out loud: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” I had recited these words and they had made their way into her heart.
Little children take in everything. If we want our children and grandchildren to give their allegiance to God’s ways, we are going to have to “whisper” God’s words into their hearts daily. If we don’t whisper these words, they will listen to other words. What words can you whisper into the children in your life? “You are a priceless treasure.” “You are wonderfully made.” “Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God.” “God delights in you.” Figure out the message of your sermon and share it with a child.