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what is honour?

Hello, my name is Remmo, and today I want to talk about ‘honour’. 

The fifth commandment tells us to:

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12

This is the only command that carries a blessing with it. It is a command that contains the key that opens the door to a secure life in the Promised Land. And that key is ‘honour’.

So in this episode of Caleb’s Journal I want to explore ‘honour’. What is it? And how do we ‘honour’?

Entering Into the Promised Land

Honouring is the fifth of the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments define a process that brings us to the Promised Land, or God’s Kingdom life. This fifth one shows how we can remain in it securely.

To enter into the Kingdom Life we must first hear the voice of God calling us, this is defined in the First Commandment. He reaches out and reveals Himself to us as our God – the one who has released us from our bondage to sin. 

We respond to Him when we act according to the second command, where we forsake all others and declare our loyalty to Him – that He is our God. By being in an intentional relationship with Him we experience His faithfulness towards us, and we come to trust Him. We trust His nature, and as we trust His name, we no longer take it in vain – so we are keeping the third commandment.

These first three commandments are a process of transformation that leads us into the fourth commandment – the sabbath rest. Our old nature is put to death, not by our own work but that of Christ in us. As we bear His image we cease from our own labour and enter into His rest – as it is not our work that conquers sin, but His… and He has already overcome. This is what it means to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

It is at this point that, having entered into His rest, that we enter into His Kingdom Life. By submitting ourselves to Him as our Lord and King we will express a new way of living. And this new way starts with ‘honour’.

Defining Honour

So, what is ‘honour’?

Firstly, it is not simply obedience, and it is also not love. This is particularly striking, as nowhere in God’s word are we specifically commanded to love our parents – although the Bible does tell us to love our neighbour, the stranger, and God Himself.

We are however commanded to honour them.

Honour implies a recognition of authority, and is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

High respect, or great esteem, and

The quality of knowing and doing what is morally right.

The Hebrew word that is used for ‘honour’ is כבד kabad and it literally means ‘heavy’.

Now this may sound a little strange. However, in ancient times value and weight were connected. A simple illustration of this would be the ancient monetary unit, the shekel – the heavier the coin the higher its value.

So when we say ‘honour’ is ‘heavy’ we say that ‘honour’ is ‘value’

But the way in which the word כבד kabad is used in the fifth commandment implies that we are to do more than simply ‘honour’ or  ‘value’ our parents.

כבד Kabad is written in a form that does not just mean ‘heavy’, but rather to ‘make heavy’.

We are therefore commanded to ‘give value’ or to ‘give honour’. It is therefore not a passive act, but one which requires expression. 

How do we express honour?

So how do we give expression to honour? How do we express value?

Paul gives us some insight into how we can do this when he says:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Ephesians 6:1-3

Here, Paul connects the expression of honour with obedience. We give honour to our parents when we obey them and when we heed their instruction. However, this obedience is qualified by the statement “in the Lord”.

The premise of the fifth command is that the parents themselves are following God and His Word. 

With this foundation in place, honouring our parents is witnessing of the respect that we have for God, and the recognition of His authority. It is respecting our source of life. 

Honouring our parents starts with honouring God, and when we do so, God promises that

Those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

  1 Samuel 2:30

This is the foundation of life, and is the key to securing the blessing that is contained in the fifth commandment. It is how we secure possession of the Promised Land.

Honour Restores

When we give honour we express value – we identify what it is that we treasure.

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be (Matthew 6:19).

As honouring our parents has its origin in honouring God, this is where our heart must be. He must be our greatest treasure. Firstly because He is God, and secondly because only God can work the miracles in our hearts that we need in order to be able to live a life that honours others.

This gives us something to hold on to, especially since we don’t yet live in a perfect world and all of us have parents that aren’t perfect and where we may struggle to honour them.

By living a life where we express honour to God a pathway to restoration is opened.

We see this when we look at the pictographic meaning of the individual letters of the Hebrew word כבד kabad, and how together they illustrate the Hebrew concept of ‘honour’.

כבד Kabad has three letters:

  • כ kaf illustrating an open hand – meaning power or strength
  • ב bet illustrates a house, and is used throughout Hebrew to mean ‘in’ or ‘inside’, and
  • ד dalet illustrates a door

When put together a picture is formed that illustrates the concept of honour being the strength or power that opens the door.

Just think of a time when you have been honoured by someone, when someone has expressed the value they see in you. At that time your heart and soul were opened. This is what honour does. It opens the door, it brings communion, and it restores relationship.

This is true of our relationship with God, as well as our parents. 

But more importantly, as we live a life that expresses honour to our past, to our source of life, we show a respect to our future and to those who follow us in this same path – as the fifth command promises that as we live a life of honour we may live long in the land.

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See you again next time.