Why We Parent with Rules

We have rules in our house. Rules many would classify as strict. Rules I don’t always enjoy, I’ll admit that. I don’t like watching my 9 year old left out because of the boundaries we’ve set. I don’t like turning movies off in the middle. In fact I’m upset too. But we’re done. Because there are rules. Rules that aren’t just ours but God’s. Rules that might label us as stringent parents. But I don’t care. The stakes are too high. In a world constantly trying to pull my children away from God, away from right and wrong into a pile of mushy middle, that will neither leave them joy filled nor blessed, but calloused and desensitized, there must be rules.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 34
Key Verse: “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 32:46)

Not because we’re mean or old fashion or over-protective (though is that really such a bad thing sometimes). But simply because we love them to the moon and back, want to see them thrive in this life, blessed by God, and joy filled. A few of the positive ramifications of walking in His ways (Psalm 1) and remaining in Him (Jn. 15:11). So we have boundaries, rules, anchored in God’s word, to help them go in the right direction.

There’s no guarantee they will, ultimately it’s up to them. But if we lead by example. If we set the boundaries and uphold them ourselves, what a difference it could make. If my sweet babies see me look or watch or say or do things I’ve told them they can’t do, how will they ever believe me? They won’t. They’ll go and do likewise.

If I push the envelope, they’ll open it. If I make a small loophole, they’ll make it bigger. If I live on the edge, they’ll be sure to cross it. As Dinah did, Jacob’s only daughter (as far as we’re told). One of Leah’s kiddos. A rose among thorns, who got quite curious about the world just beyond her tent. A world that should have been twenty miles away from her in Bethel.

Why Bethel? Because Jacob had vowed to God, “If you bring me back to Canaan safely, I’ll come right back here to Bethel and worship you” (my version). Well he was back in Canaan, but for some reason stopped short, purchased a piece of property from the sons of Hamor and built his altar at Shechem instead. Gen. 33:18 says Jacob “pitched his tent before the city,” just as Lot did in Genesis 13:12 when he, “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (KJV). The similar wording is Scripture’s indication to us that trouble’s a brewin’.

And brew it did with a pagan society right next door. One that idolized sex and sexual practices  and freedom and sensuality. (Sounds vaguely familiar doesn’t it?) It looked alluring, exciting, and it was RIGHT THERE. So Dinah went to see the women of the land. Or as some versions say visit. The Hebrew word is ra’ah which can mean consider, discern, make to enjoy, have experience, gaze, take heed, look one upon another. This girl was not just out for a quick visit and a cup of tea. And consequently she got raped.

A practice apparently not prohibited by these people considering no rebuke was given to Shechem, “the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land” for doing such a thing. Instead he received help from his father to try and wager a deal to marry the girl. They offered Jacob and his sons whatever they wanted. Along with permission to intermarry among them, buy in the land, and come and go as they pleased. (More than likely a sly attempt by Satan to defile the godly line.)

But the boys weren’t interested. With revenge in mind they deceived Hamor and Shechem into thinking circumcision was the issue. “If ya’ll would just get circumcised we could have a deal. Your women for ours.” And surprisingly everyone in the entire town agreed and got right to it. (weird). On day three of healing, when they were sore and unable to protect themselves, Simeon and Levi took advantage of their helpless state and killed every single man in that city. All of them. And brought their little sis home to live the remainder of her days a desolate ruined woman. (Thanks guys. Thanks a lot.)

Then all the brothers went in and pillaged the Shechemites. Taking anything and everything of value, including women and children. (What on earth did they do with them all?) Jacob’s response: “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land…My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed” (v. 30).

His concern was not for Dinah or the atrocious immorality committed by his sons. His concern wasn’t even God and what he thought of the whole thing. In fact God is never mentioned in this  chapter. Yet in Genesis 33 Jacob couldn’t stop talking about God to Esau. So what happened? Why did Jacob not use the altar he had built to seek God for help and wisdom in dealing with the Shechemites? Why did he allow his sons to do all the negotiating? Why did he not stick up more for his daughter?

I don’t know. But what I do know is if Jacob had gone on to Bethel as he should have none of this would have happened. If he hadn’t pitched his tent toward Shechem, Dinah would have never gone visiting. Sure he built an altar but it was within walking distance to idolatry. We can’t blur the lines of godly living and think we or our children will go uneffected.

God’s given us the boundaries. Our responsibility is to live by them and teach them to our kids. Moses encouraged the Israelites, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law” (Deut. 32:46). “That it may go well with you and your children after you” (Deut. 4:40). My friend, today, let’s pitch our tents toward Heaven, not the world, in hopes that our littles may love God and His word as much as we do.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What God honoring boundaries have you set in your home?
In what ways are you living your life as a godly example for the generations to come?
photo credit: pixabay.com

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