January 8

Smooth Stone #1 – Relational Ministry and Modeling (Deuteronomy 11)

Daniel Watts

We were pulling out of the garage and my granddaughter shouted out from her car seat to stop the car.

We needed to “check both ways.” After doing so, she gave me the go-ahead to back out. She is three years old.

It is no secret in our family that we have had generations of strong women tracking back to my wife’s grandmother and continuing to my granddaughter through four generations. Some of that may be “factory equipment,” but modeling is also a factor.

I have watched the four generations and can see the mannerisms, and even speech patterns, that have been passed down from mother to daughter. Sometimes, my granddaughter sounds just like her mother… who sounds like my wife. Just saying.

Anyone who has raised children, worked with children, or taught children knows the importance of modeling. Therefore, it is no surprise that Moses begins his instructions to the Israelites regarding their children with the issue of modeling.

In last week's blog, we compared and contrasted Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:18-20. We looked at the concerns that Moses expressed in Deuteronomy 11:1-17 and noted the similar environment our children face today.

In this week’s blog, we will look at Deuteronomy 11:1 and 11:17, which correlate closely to Deuteronomy 6:5-6. We will examine Deuteronomy 11:1 and 11:17 separately as they are in the text.

"Love the Lord Your God" in Deuteronomy 11:1 vs. 6:5

Love the Lord Your God

Moses’ concern is for the Israelite children, and one would expect him to jump right into talking about children’s ministry principles.

However, he begins by addressing the adult members of the Israelite community. As he did in Deuteronomy 6:5, he urges them to “Love the LORD your God.” This same wording is used in Deuteronomy 11:1. The difference between the two passages is as follows.

In Deuteronomy 6:5, the love of God is expressed with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The Deuteronomy 11:1 rendition sees the love of God manifested in “keeping his requirements, his decrees, his laws, and his commands always.”

In the Deuteronomy 6 version, the emphasis on the love of God seems at first to be more seated in emotion, but a closer look shows that heart and soul are references to the “seat of the will” and the person’s “whole being.”

“All your strength” implies a person’s full capacity, possibly including their giftedness and material resources.

In Deuteronomy 11:1, the focus is on expressing love for God through obedience to His requirements, decrees, laws, and commands.

  • Requirements – the obligations one has to God.
  • Decrees – what has been prescribed by God.
  • Laws – legal decisions and specifics declared by God.
  • Commands - The sum of all of God’s commandments.

Rather than delving into a series of in-depth word studies, we can make three general observations.

Obedience to God is a Natural Expression of Love

Obedience to God

First, obedience is not set in opposition to love of God but rather flows out of love for God and is a natural expression of that love.

Often forgotten in our false dichotomy of works and grace are the elements in the law dealing with sin and forgiveness (cf. Leviticus 4, 5, and 6).

Obedience to the law was not a call to perfectionism or some kind of works of righteousness. Rather, it was a way of living in and expressing the love of God. 

Simply stated, keeping God’s laws flows from love of God. In Israel’s day, a loving monarch took care to provide moral and ethical guidelines for those he ruled.

In the case of Israel, God’s reign was rooted in love and as such was inherently relational.

Moses is urging the Israelites to engage Yahweh in relational love that leads to obedience. This was crucial for the future of Israel, their children.

Obedient Relationships Flows Naturally Into the Lives of Children

Obedient Relationships Flows Naturally Into the Lives of Children

Second, when the Israelites live in a loving, obedient relationship with God, this flows naturally into the lives of the children.

The children experience the love of God flowing through the community into their lives. They are also the beneficiaries of being reared in a loving, obedient community. 

Unconditional love, forgiveness, discipline, virtue, and a vibrant spiritual life would be the experience of children who have been raised in a loving obedient community.

For Obedience to Impact Children, a Relationship is Required

For Obedience to Impact Children, a Relationship is Required

Finally, while Deuteronomy 6:5 and Deuteronomy 11:1 are not as dissimilar as one might think, the Deuteronomy 11:1 passage does place significant emphasis on obedience to God and the covenant guidelines.

The four-fold teaching makes it clear how important godliness is to children’s ministry. For obedience to impact children, a relationship is required.

Modeling requires relationship. Experiencing God’s love and the benefits of an obedient community requires children to be in relationships with the members of the community, not the least of which are their own parents and family. 

While Moses never explicitly speaks of relational ministry, it is a foundational assumption.

Closing Thoughts

Relational Ministry and Modeling

So, it is today in our children’s ministry. Transformational children’s ministry is built on relationships.

This coming weekend, make sure that relationships are more important than the lesson plan. Learn more about the children God has brought into the ministry and build the life-changing relationships we have examined today.

Join us next week when we will look at the second element of this relational ministry principle found in Deuteronomy 11:17.

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