This blog and its companion podcast were adapted from a recent Wednesday night talk by my dear friend, Paul Becker. His perspective of Biblical truth mixed with the beauty of the Jewish traditions offers a unique perspective on singleness.
Fighting for Your Family of One: The Shema
“”For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.” [Deut 30:11 ESV] Recently I delivered a message to a group of young adult singles about fighting for their future family. As singles, the idea of a lesson centered around fighting for your family might seem far off, even premature and out of place. Some of you are probably thinking that: “yes, that sounds great and all, but I have about fifteen life decisions to worry about before I even start thinking about family.” But the truth is that how you live your life now, and how you prepare for marriage will have an enormous impact on any future children the Lord may bless you with. “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” [Psa 127:3 NLT] I hope to be a parent someday as I am sure most Christian singles do as well. It is an awesome responsibility and we have a duty before God to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” [Pro 22:6 ESV]. It is the role of parents and primarily the father to teach children about Jesus, to instruct them in the ways of the Lord.
Training up a child in the way they should go is no easy task and it is growing more difficult by the day. Satan has been waging war on the family since the fall of Adam because he understands that godly parents who are obedient to the Word will raise up children that are like arrows, warriors for the gospel of Jesus.
In America, Satan is winning his war against families. Just over 50 years ago the rate of children born out of wedlock to a single mother was 8%, 20 years ago that rate was up to 25% and today over 40% of children are born to unmarried women…to fatherless households. In some large urban areas, the rate reaches 70% and in the poorest parts of Memphis, over 90% of children live in single-parent homes. The health of a nation’s families determines the health of the nation. Single mothers often have no choice but to work long hours away from their children.
Sadly, that is often true of many two-parent households as well. A wife that stays home and can spend time pouring into her children has become the exception. Entire generations of kids are being raised by daycare, TV, and the internet. Children are left on their own, away from godly role models. Their exposure to an endless stream of media that glorifies sexual immorality, minimizes and downright mocks the role of fathers, and encourages extreme selfishness. “Just do you, whatever makes you happy must be right” has become the new American way.
Without the leadership of godly fathers, there is chaos. The result is a collapse in civic virtue and an explosion of division. Children born out of wedlock are far more likely to grow up in poverty and commit crimes at substantially higher rates. Just as godliness is passed down from generation to generation, so is wickedness. Abraham Lincoln said that “A house divided cannot stand.” John Adams wrote that “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
We are beginning to have much in common with the nation of Judah in the book of Isaiah when God said: “For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence.” [Isa 3:8 ESV] Given the culture, we face how do we as Young Adult Singles prepare ourselves to be godly parents? The answer is simple, but the execution anything but that. We must follow the blueprint given to us by God. God has provided a template for what the day in the life of a godly family, living under a godly father should look like. God did so in the Shema. “”Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the rules–that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” [Deu 6:1-9 ESV] When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees which was the most important commandment, his answer was Deuteronomy 6:4-5 [Mark 12:28-30]. The Shema is the very core of the Jewish faith and consequently, the very core of our faith. Genuine awe of God cannot come through fear. It must come through profound and unshakeable love of our father God because God is love.
So we must look to the Shema and unravel what it teaches us about how we are to lead our lives and what that means for how we prepare ourselves for marriage and parenting. When I was speaking to that group of young adults I told them that “I’m guessing that each and every one of us in here want to marry, but are you the one that the one you are looking for is looking for?” Living out the Shema is pursuing holiness. Holiness is how you build a godly marriage and raise up godly children: mighty arrows, ready to be sent into the world to glorify God and share the good news of Jesus. We are to be holy because God is holy. Lev 11:44.
As we live out the Shema, we should realize there are three key takeaways from the Shema that we need to fully comprehend if we are to be successful: First, God is declaring himself as he says “Hear, O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Again in Romans 1:19 ESV we see God. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” David in Ps 19:1 ESV states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Also, in Ps 14:1 and 53:1 ESV, David declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’… They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.” [Psa 14:1 &53:1 ESV]
The second nugget of wisdom from the Shema is to abide with God. This is clearly understood in the command in Deut 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Do you love God with every ounce of your being? Are you absolutely, totally dependent on Him? In the Westminster Confession we are reminded that “man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” That is our primary purpose. We were created to be present with God by being continually connected to Him. You cannot do this without the habit of Bible intake and prayer.
A man must examine his soul to determine if he loves God more than his own life? Are there no areas of your life off-limits to God. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” [John 12:25 ESV] A man’s strength is evidence of devotion. God blesses each of us with unique strengths. Some are physically strong – protectors of the flock, some counsel us with their emotional strength, some lead us with their intellectual strength, and some of us will be blessed financially if so do you love Him with all your finances? Ask yourself if you are loving God with all of your strength.
Lastly, a successful man who follows Shema must aspire to know God. Parents must teach these commandments diligently to your children. God honors the father by placing him as the spiritual leader of the home. Society is transformed one family at a time. Your greatest mission field will be your children. When you have children, they become the most important exercise of your faith. Your first and highest calling is to educate them in the word of God. The word of God teaches us to recognize truth. When we faithfully take in God’s word it gives us the ability to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it. The miraculous thing about children is their trust and curiosity. Jesus said, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” [Mat 18:2-4 ESV]
When I was a kid my favorite question was “why?” I heard stories for years about my relentless asking of why at every turn. Thankfully, my mom, my aunt, and my nannies were patient and always gave real answers instead of the very popular “because I said so.” They encouraged my curiosity. Parents can anticipate that God has promised that your children will come to you and ask: “”When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?'” [Deu 6:20 ESV].
If we are faithful to teach these commandments God will be faithful to open the door to your child’s heart – they will ask and you will share your testimony and the love of Jesus and they will come to know the Lord. “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1Ti 2:4 ESV]
I love my Mezuzahs. One Orthodox relatives, who has the phylacteries and tzitzits, is faithfully trying to observe the letter of God’s command. But to me what God is really trying to convey in this passage is simpler truth than items to put on when praying. Does your home look like the home of one who knows the Lord? How about your actions? Is everything you think controlled by the word of God. Is the Word of God as frontlets to your eyes? Your home, your life, your words, your actions, and your possessions should demonstrate that you belong to the Living One, Jesus. If a guest were to visit your home what type of décor would they encounter? Would they see scripture verses or new-age trinkets, Ouija boards, and buddha statues? What do your artwork and photos say about your interests? What kind of music is streaming? Books? Magazines? Jesus said that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Mat 6:21 NASB95] What are you spending your treasure to acquire? Is love there? One day I hope to be a father. I want to be the type of father that delights in his children by listening to them, and being gentle and kind with them. Creating an environment of love – making it the happiest place they can be so they will want to be home, so they will want to learn and so they can be saturated in the word of God as they see it lived out. Children learn by example and mimic what they see.
So, in this time while I am single, I intend to thrive while preparing for the family I pray God will give me one day.
Join my conversation with Paul at Embrace Your Everyday.