By Jonathan Cavett
God stretches forth his mighty hand to redeem his people in time and space, but the clocks didn’t stop at Sinai or Horeb or Golgotha. Time moves on, and God’s work in the present soon becomes God’s work in history, in our past. So how do the generations that come after participate in God’s mighty works? Education.
In Deuteronomy 4:13-14, Moses exhorts Israel to never forget the covenant God made with them at Horeb, namely, the Ten Commandments. The prescribed method of remembering this event and the covenant is given earlier in 4:9:
“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;” – Deuteronomy 4:9
As R.J. Rushdoony has put it, we have victory through education. This isn’t the humanistic, messianic hope that public education gives secularists; this is covenantal remembrance, ensuring the generations after us keep covenant with God.
It is sin to keep knowledge of the Lord to ourselves. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Notice two things about this verse:
Revelation is as much for our children as for us. It belongs to us and them – “forever”. We must, therefore, make [God’s words] known to our children and our children’s children.
Revelation is for obedience. That’s why Paul says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16). Learning is often defined as change in behavior. This is true for covenant transfer as well. We teach our children that they may obey the Lord.
So what’s at stake? Gary North explains the importance of education well in his commentary on Deuteronomy 4:9:
“[Israelites] were also to teach their grandchildren. This would either constitute a double witness—parents and grandparents combined—or else it would overcome the defection of the children. The grandparent factor becomes a kind of covenantal insurance policy against a breakdown in the inheritance process.
“This is why bastardy is such a threat to a society. When fathers are absent, mothers must sustain the legacy. They do not enjoy the benefits of the division of labor. This places heavy burdens on mothers and children. Mothers must earn money to support their children. They must also allocate time to teach them. The covenantal legacy is threatened by a break in continuity.
“Grandmothers may intervene at this point, caring for the children while mothers are at work. If the grandmothers fail in their task of transmitting the story of the covenant, the third generation is cut loose from the covenant. This is when the breakdown of inheritance begins. This also implies the breakdown of society. The inheritance is ethical and cultural. When it fades, so does social order.” (Inheritance and Dominion, Gary North)
Our great grandchildren may not know the Lord and the society in which they’ll live will be mere ruins if we fail to teach our children and grandchildren the story of the covenant. If our children do not learn the story of the covenant, they will inevitably live their lives within some other narrative, one which replaces the covenant Lord with an idol.
Education is either the means by which the fools and covenant breakers run this world into the ground, or the means by which the Kingdom of God advances from one generation to another.
Deuteronomy 6 gives us details about the content and prescribed method of education, but that requires another article or two.