Troublesome Topic: Passing the Covenant On

Lesson 1 of 4

How did the knowledge of the covenant get passed on from one generation to the next? The answer is FAMILY. It was primarily parents that were given the responsibility of instructing their children in the ways of God’s covenant.

Deuteronomy 6:4



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ISRAEL, YHVH (read Adonai) [is] our ELOHIM,

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YHVH (read Adonai) alone,


Listen up YOU WHO CLAIM YOU WILL NEVER LET GO OF GOD, the OWNER AN RULER that we have committee ourselves to is THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD; we have committed ourselves to Him alone,

Deuteronomy 6:5


and you shall love

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YHVH (read Adonai) your ELOHIM

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with all your inner being,

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with all your God-breathed soul,

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and with all your muchness.

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and you must show your love for THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD, who is your CREATOR AND RULER, by following Him obediently; do this with singular will, with all your God-given spiritual being, and with all the energy and purpose you have.

Deuteronomy 6:6


And these words

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I am commanding you today shall be       upon

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your inner being,

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The instructions I am charging you with today need to be [engraved] in your innermost being,

Deuteronomy 6:7


and you shall use them to prick

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those who will build [your family line],

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and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you go along the way, when you lie down and when you rise up,

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and you must effectively teach them to your children by whetting [their appetites] and by piercing their innermost being with these commands. Do so by talking to them about these things when you are sitting down at home to eat together and pass the evenings together, and when you are traveling somewhere; do this all day long.

Deuteronomy 6:8


and you shall tie them on your hand

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as a sign and pledge [of something],

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and they shall be like a band

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in the interval of space between your eyes  [and your brain-case].

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You must use them to govern your actions and serve as a demonstration of your loyalty to my covenant, and they shall surround your thinking to influence the process that goes on between when you see something and when you decide to do something about it.

Deuteronomy 6:9


Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

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Make them visible reminders to yourself and to others of your commitment to follow God, and establish them as filters to help you control the influences that come in and go out of your home.

Control the Influences that Enter Your Home

Doorposts were seen as the point of control for what enters and leaves a house. Usually that meant something that can influence the people within that house for good or for evil, or the influence your family has on others around you. I think the primary emphasis here was with the influences that entered the home, not the ones leaving the home.

Education was a family affair. It was not the responsibility of the priests, or the Levites, or the community leaders. It was the parents. I am convinced that today we too often pass on to others the responsibility of training up a child in the way he should go. We expect the Sunday School teacher, or the pastor, or the teacher at a Christian school to do it for us. But there are no substitute teachers in this school called home. The responsibility is clearly ours as parents and we should take it up and do the best we can with God’s grace, wisdom, and strength.

In order for the teaching found in God’s word to serve as a filter for the influences that enter a home, there needs to be one or two guardians who know God’s word well and approve or disapprove every influence. It should be obvious that I am speaking about the father and mother as those guardians. This means that Dad and Mom need to know God’s word and work together on this issue, not pull against each other.

If you are a parent of children that are still minors, you should control what comes into your home and influences your children’s thinking and actions. TV is a major influence. Many people have allowed their children to have their own TV so they don’t disrupt the viewing habits of the parents. It is a convenient solution, but in reality, it is no solution at all because it takes things the wrong direction when it comes to the control of influences. If you allow your children to have their own TV in their bedroom, that is literally giving away the control of a child’s mind to people you don’t know.

The kids want to watch lots of TV because they see the parents watching lots of TV. If the TV were used only for special occasions, there wouldn’t be much arguing about it. There is no room here for selfishness, rather each parent should be focused on what is best for the children. One of the best decisions my wife and I ever made was to get rid of access to TV programming. I suggest you consider doing the same.

Access to the internet is even worse than TV in many ways. It is an almost wide-open source of information and entertainment with very few limits. I see many dangers and no benefits of allowing a minor to have unaccompanied access to everything on the web.

Something similar can be said about education. When you send your children to an institution of mass education, be it a public or private school, you have abdicated the responsibility of teaching your children the ways of God and preparing them for life. It helps if a parent is highly involved with things like homework, but there will be much that the child needs to unlearn. That is especially true if your child goes to a public school. If you trust a public school for your children’s preparation for life, you have entrusted them into the hands of a system that teaches moral relativism, evolution, atheism, sexual freedom, abortion, identity confusion, etc., etc.

As parents, your knowledge and application of God’s word should serve as the doorway into your home. Everything should go through you, and you should approve only those things that square with God’s word.

There were two ways that Dad and Mom passed on the knowledge of the covenant.

1. Parents sought to take advantage of the opportune teaching moments in everyday life.

As I have tried to show, there would have been numerous opportunities every day for Israelites in general to make choices about whether to follow God’s way or not. Each time such a choice had to be made it was an opportunity to focus the mind on what God wanted for His people. Parents were expected to be especially aware of these moments and use them in teaching their children. In this way the examples given would have been from something the child understood and had contact with. Teaching by opportune moments throughout the day would be specific to the boy’s activities and the girl’s activities respectively.

How aware are we of teaching moments throughout our day? We may use certain moments to instruct our child about something if it relates to an action that really bugs us, and we are happy for a fresh means of trying to get our point across. We may find some aspect of life to use as an example when we are chewing on a kid’s ear. But how many teaching opportunities pass us by every day? What percentage of what we should be teaching our kids do we actually teach them in this way? (I assume that you already know that teaching based on real life experiences or objects they come in contact with, at the time they need the teaching, helps them remember much better than most other methods.)

I am hoping to wake more people up to the fact that many meaningful teaching moments are afforded to us every day. We should keep a keen eye out for them and learn how to use them for the benefit of the children God has entrusted to us. I’m not talking about preaching to our kids all day long. Rather I am talking about pointing out these lessons using everyday occurrences that come up. In this way a long sermon is not necessary, and the lesson will be remembered better than any sermon.

2. The Hebrew parents also used planned events for teaching.

By this I refer to things they did daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. These were all teaching moments, moments when God taught the sensitive-hearted adults a little more about His ways, and moments when the parents could teach their children some of what they had already learned along the way.

Some daily traditions were the following: They recited out loud what we designate as Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (they called it the Shema) both morning and evening. Many of them also practiced what some rabbis have called a “daily sabbath,” meaning a daily pause. We would call this a daily devotional time, or quiet time with God. They also praised God for every meal.

The Sabbath day was a weekly stay-at-home event, not a jump-in-the-car-and-run-all-over-the-planet event. We could hardly call what many people do on Sunday a day of rest. Isaiah 58:13 shows us that it is wrong for us to do as we please on the Sabbath. Why do people hate Monday morning? It is quite likely that many people hate going back to work on Monday because they know they are starting the work week on empty.

The Former Covenant included many specifics about how they were to celebrate various feasts throughout the year. A number of the feasts taught gratitude. Some of the feasts were large public gatherings; but others were centered in the home. Both kinds were used for teaching people of all ages about God. The Passover, which celebrated God’s choosing them as His people and establishing a covenant relationship with them, was perhaps the feast most specifically designed for teaching in the family context. Included in the traditional practice of the Seder meal was the opportunity and expectation that the youngest child able to speak would ask the four key questions. In response to each question the father would explain another aspect of the story of the first Passover. In this feast, as in other Jewish traditions, the mother was also highly involved. 

We need to learn from that system to make the home the center of intentional spiritual teaching. We also need to realize the importance of establishing patterns that the kids can count on.

I have often been strongly against traditions because I have seen how dangerous they can be when they become an end in themselves (especially in a church setting). But now I see that traditions can be good or bad depending on what setting they are in.

The following chart demonstrates the difference between what usually happens to traditions in the church setting and traditions in the home setting.

Traditions In The Church                               Traditions In The Home

Hindrances to spirituality                               Helpful for spiritual growth

Rarely flexible                                                Flexible

Become an end in themselves                        Can serve the family’s needs

Rarely used for teaching truth                        Helpful teaching tools

Consistency and stability are important for children. A home should include various patterns that the children learn to recognize and count on. Choose those patterns purposefully. Don’t let other things force patterns upon you. And don’t forget to tell your children why you have chosen the patterns you have chosen.

Make these patterns and traditions fit your family’s uniqueness and personality. Notice I have not said to make them fit your lifestyle. Your lifestyle should be a servant to your priorities. The responsibility of teaching your children spiritual truth is far too weighty a task to be cast at the feet of the schedules for school sports, karate lessons, band, dance, music lessons, drama, 4H, rodeo, competitive video gaming, every other sport imaginable, debate, academic competitions, art competitions, did I mention sports? or any other myriad of things kids can get involved in today. In order to not become slaves to a frenetic schedule you must limit the number of things that family members are involved in. Carefully choosing a few things and dedicating yourselves to them is far better than trying to do everything and doing none of it well.

So whether you do something in the mornings, or at night, on weekends or every day, at least do something. Make it meaningful and appropriate for your kids, but do something. Allow them to expect they will receive something that will benefit them in their relationship with God in the context of a specific time and setting.

The next lesson in the full series on Covenants is: Entering the Promise Land Required Obedience and Trust



“Hear, listen” carries the idea of listening with attention, or paying attention. It also implies obeying what has been heard. In the verse just prior to this one, this command is followed by the command to obey, which, rather than being a redundancy, was a powerful emphasis on both ideas – “listen and obey.”


In cases like this the idea of “our” is incorporated into the name for God so it is a different form of the name Elohim. However, for English readers I render it “our ELOHIM” so as to not cause confusion by using various forms of the name and because that is what it means.


The word love, when used in a covenantal context, is closely associated with obedience.


For English readers I render this name “your ELOHIM” so as to not cause confusion by using various forms of the name and because that is what it means.


The first word in this trio is often rendered “heart” but it points to the “inner being” with an emphasis on the will. Those who render it “mind” are closer to the idea of the original than is “heart,” Notice that I have rendered it as “inner being” in the translation and as “will” in the paraphrase.


The second word in this trio means “life, breath and soul.” It emphasizes life which comes from God with a focus on the inner and spiritual aspects of life, not the physical. In my translation I render it your “God-breathed soul” and in the paraphrase your “God-given spiritual being.”


The last word in the trio means “abundance, muchness, exceeding, or force/strength.” In this verse it may refer specifically to your strength and energy, or it may refer to everything you have in abundance which includes your strength but also your time, your physical possessions, your relationships, and other blessings from God. In other words, it could refer to “your everything.”

8: "These words"

The word used here is a noun that has the basic meaning of “word” but it can also mean “command, charge, royal edict, advice, counsel, judgment, message, report, a matter, an event.” Here the context ties it closely to commands and charges.


There appears to be a word left out and is to be assumed by the reader. This would be something like, “shall be engraved upon your inner being,” or “shall be placed within your inner being” or “shall be kept within your innermost being.”


This word is often rendered “heart” but it points to the “inner being” with an emphasis on the will. It is the same word used in verse 5.


The word for “teach” comes from a root that means “to point.” It was used to communicate the following ideas: “to pierce, to prick, to sharpen, to whet [the appetite]” and thus “to inculcate or to teach.”


This word comes from a root meaning “to build.” It was used of “children” because they would build the family line.


By referring to lying down and getting up, Moses was pointing to evening and morning. We usually reverse the order and say morning and evening, and by so doing we mean “all day long.” Although it is true that there are special teaching activities we can do with young children when they go to bed and when they get up, this choice of words also communicated the idea of “all day long,” but it did so in a very Jewish way. Evening was the beginning of a new day and was marked by quiet preparation which we call sleep. Morning was the beginning of the active part of the day; when the daylight hours were gone and the activity stopped, the 24 hour day had also ended. Thus evening and morning was a way to indicate and entire 24 hour span of time. By including sitting down, walking, lying down and rising, this verse obviously intends to communicate that we should teach our children all day and at every opportunity.


The hands are the tools that we use to get things done. Therefore, the hands were a symbol for action and accomplishment.


This word means “a sign” but it was often used of signs that were pledges of something important, including one’s pledge of loyalty to a covenant Lord.


The root word behind this word is simply “a band” without stating its purpose. As such it went all the way around the thing it was on. Thus, its usage points to surrounding something and keeping it bound together.


My perception is that something went unstated at the end of this verse. I do not think this band was intended to fill the space between the two eyes (i.e. to cover the bridge of the nose), but rather it was intended to fill the interval of space between the eyes and something else – probably between the eyes and the brain case. Today we know that the frontal bone of the cranium goes down to the eye sockets, but in cases like this, we should not be overly picky, rather we should try to understand the perspective and emphasis of the writer and the original audience. It was a word picture indicating that God’s teaching and His commands were to occupy the space between what we see and how we make decisions. It should influence our decision-making process by being interposed into the middle of the process.


This was being spoken to people who had no doors or gates because they were living in tents! Obviously, the meaning for them at that time was symbolic. Once they built houses and transitioned from tents to houses, they could apply both the symbolic meaning and a literal one. The symbolic meaning is made clear in my paraphrase. This means that the previous verse was also intended to be interpreted first as symbolism while a literal interpretation was secondary and optional.