When God delivered the ten commandments to Moses, there was one of the Ten that had a promise associated with it. That’s the fifth commandment. It says, “Honor your father and mother.” Paul says in Ephesians 6:1-2, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Then he quotes from the ten commandments and adds, “‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Solomon understood this truth well and wanted his children to understand it as well. This instruction is the key to a happy and successful life. In Proverbs 1:8-9, he tells the children of every generation, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” One modern preacher argues that the problem in America is that we no longer teach this truth to our children. “A Chinese man traveled in America for six months. When asked what impressed him most about America, he answered, ‘The way parents obey their children.’ In many homes, the father is not the head—just a figurehead. Disobedience at home will lead to disobedience in school and disrespect for authority. Children should be taught and even forced to obey their parents. You cannot begin too early to teach this important lesson.”[1]

But Solomon isn’t focusing on the consequences of rebellion so much as he is pointing out the beauty of honoring one’s parents and respecting them by hearing their advice and heeding their instructions. The whole key to the verse of Proverbs is “fear of the Lord.” That’s the beginning of wisdom which results in a happy and successful life. Disregarding, disrespecting, and disobeying parents is to disregard, disrespect, and disobey God. The fifth commandment promises good things to those who listen and heed their parent’s advice. “Here, it helps to know that when the Bible talks about living long in the land, it is not simply talking about how old people are when they die. The expression ‘live long in the land’ is a Hebrew phrase for the fullness of God’s blessing. It means to have an abundant life. Anyone who wants to live long and prosper should honor his mother and father.”[2]

Obedience is a beautiful thing. Obedient children get a garland on their heads and a pendant to wear around their necks. “What do those metaphors mean? A garland was a Victor’s wreath. In Chapter 4, the garland stands in parallel with ‘a beautiful crown’ (Proverbs 4:9). And a pendant is a chain around one’s neck as a mark of prestige. Think of an Olympic gold medal.”[3] Obedient children are beautiful to the world. This is true of obedient adults as well. God delights in those who regard His worlds, who respect His authority, and obey His instructions. Saul, Israel’s first king, had to learn this the hard way. Saul took it upon himself to offer the sacrifices that were reserved for only priests to offer. When Samuel found out about it, he confronted Saul. 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

[1] Pentz, Croft M. 1979. Sermon Outlines for Special Days. Sermon Outline Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] Ryken, Philip Graham, and R. Kent Hughes. 2005. Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Ortlund, Raymond C., Jr. 2012. Preaching the Word: Proverbs—Wisdom That Works. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.