“If a Bird’s Nest Happens to Be Before You Along the Way . . . Honor Your Father and Your Mother."
A strange title isn't it? Both phrases in the title are Bible verses that you may have thought were unrelated. I wouldn't have considered a connection myself, except for the following clause shared in concert with both portions of Scripture.
"that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days"
Nothing in Scripture is random or without significance. There are a purpose and a meaning in all that God says and does as well as the order in which He says and does it. God's repetitious style of teaching in His Word leads to the most likely assumption that when a phrase is repeated it is somehow connected in thought, theme, and context, in all of its usages, that can give us a more meaningful understanding.
In this particular study, we will be going all over the place in Scripture, as well as back and forth between Old and New Testaments.
every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.
— Matthew 13:52
As we shall see the one is going to explain the other.
"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."
The Common Denominator
First let me begin by showing you the portion of Scripture, in its entirety, that I stumbled upon that left me scratching my head, and was the inspiration for the topic and title.
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days"
— Deuteronomy 22:6-7
My first thought was, why did God think it necessary to include this instruction. The texts surrounding it sounded like weightier matters such as, what to do if you find something valuable of your brothers, make your roof safe so people don't get hurt. There are some other interesting things going on this chapter but we are going to zero in on the bird for this study.
One thing that stood out to me, as I pondered this verse, is that, just like the command to Honor your Father and your Mother, there is a promise of a long life for obedience to it.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth" (based on the Old Testament command in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16)
— Ephesians 6:1-2
Strange considering that the other instructions in Deuteronomy 22, which seemed possibly more important, came with no such promise. It is tempting to think of this as a "light" matter to honor the mother of a random bird that you accidentally stumbled upon.
A bird in scripture can be a metaphor for something seemingly insignificant and light in comparison to human life.
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
— Matthew 6:26
Matthew chapter ten furthers this idea.
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
— Matthew 10:29-31
The Psalmist expresses this in terms of "even the sparrow..."
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young
— Psalm 84:2,3
Hold on to this thought until the conclusion as we will be revisiting this at that time.
Heavy and Light Things
The concept of heavy and light will be an important understanding in this revelation, that will eventually lead up to a New Testament conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees using these very same ideas and language.
The Hebrew word for honor, as is used in "honor your father and your mother" is "kavod" and literally means heavy, weighty, and substantial. To honor God, father, and mother means that they are weighed on the scales of one's heart, thought, and action, and found of great substance, weight, and value.
This concept of weight is illustrated in the book of Daniel when God confronts King Belshazzar of Babylon who made light of the temple objects that were carried away in the captivity of God's people. He made light of them when he used them to worship his own gods of silver and gold. God makes it abundantly clear that this is no light matter considering that Belshazzar witnessed how his father Nebuchadnezzar was humbled for his self-glorying and making light of the "God who rules in the Kingdom of men". Part of that confrontation included this statement to Belshazzar.
You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.
— Daniel 5:27
The important part of this illustration lies in the fact that God made reference to the example that Belshazzar should have taken from his father.
In doing a thorough search on the words for "weight", "scales", and just balances, I discovered that it is very commonly connected with the concept of father and mother and or the promise of a long life. These three things seem to be tied together throughout the Scripture.
This is first exampled in Leviticus chapter 19 that begins with honoring one's mother and father.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
‘Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God
— Leviticus 19:1-3
Chapter 19 of Leviticus ends with just weights and scales.
You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
‘Therefore you shall observe all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them: I am the Lord
— Leviticus 19:35-37
All other matters discussed in this chapter fall between honoring parents and just weights and measures.
This next example is found in Deuteronomy 25 and gives the related promise of the prolonged life in an association with accurate measures uniting the two themes.
“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you
— Deuteronomy 25:13-15
This next illustration will be a type of chiasm, where the occurrences will be much like a sandwich containing two parallel themes on the outside (outer slices of bread) with a central point (meat) in the middle. The whole of the text is found in chapter twenty of Proverbs.
(A) Our first slice of bread is . . .
Diverse weights and diverse measures,
They are both alike, an abomination to the Lord.
Even a child is known by his deeds,
Whether what he does is pure and right.
The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
The Lord has made them both
— Proverbs 20:10-12
Notice in the first stanza the topic has to do with accurate weights and measures. The second stanza informs us that an accurate evaluation and assessment can be discerned and weighed by even a child. Also, notice that in the third stanza the mention of ears and eyes. Our inner ears are where our physical balance is managed and processed. This can image for us how we hear and balance what and how we hear. Two Gospels (Mark and Luke) give us a balanced perspective on this.
Take heed what you hear
— Mark 4:24
Therefore take heed how you hear
— Luke 8:18
The preacher in Ecclesiastes confirms the connection to ears and a balanced perspective.
the Teacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing (balancing) and studying and arranging many proverbs
— Ecclesiastes 12:9 (NASB)
The Hebrew word for weighing or balancing in the above verse is rooted in the word for ear and shares the exact same letters.
The eyes, also, are tools of assessment. and is summed up in Matthew chapter 13.
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.
— Matthew 13:14-15
(B) The meat of our sandwich concerns making light of our father and mother.
Whoever curses (makes light of ) his father or his mother, His lamp will be put out in deep darkness.
A worthy note concerning the above verse is that the Hebrew word for "curse" in this verse is "qalal" and means to make light of or esteem as insignificant. The King James Version gets it right when it translates this verse in relation to that.
Cursed (abhorred and detested) be he that setteth light (curses/qalah - root qalal) by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen
— Deuteronomy 27:16
(A) The second slice of bread
Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord,
And dishonest scales are not good
— Proverbs 20:23
If you compare the A's you can see that they both have to do with honestly measuring and accurately assessing. The middle idea represented by "B" is about not cursing or making light one's father or mother.
In Micah chapter six the Lord asks . . .
Shall I count pure those with the wicked scales,
And with the bag of deceitful weights? . . . For son dishonors father, Daughter rises against her mother . . .
— Micah 6:11, 7:6
Proverbs chapters 1-4 is a father's instructions to his son and he makes this appeal in verse eight.
My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
— Proverbs 1:8
Chapter two continues with the wisdom and counsel of the father to his son. Then chapter three begins with
My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you
— Proverbs 3:1-2
Chapter four continues with this connection of parental honor and long life
Hear, my children, the instruction of a father . . . Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many
— Proverbs 4:1,10
The connection with long life and parental honor is displayed once again in the center.
Jonathan Cahn, in his book The Book of Mysteries,1 offers us a life application based upon this concept.
"Altered weights not only concern corrupt merchants . . . but corrupt civilizations. When a civilization redefines its value, when it changes the meanings and definitions of reality away from God and away from created order, when it alters the measures of morality, of right and wrong, to conform them to its will and desires, it is dealing in altered weights, false measures, deceptive balances . . . Never bend the truth to fit your will. Bend your will to fit the truth. Never alter the Word of God to conform God to your image; alter your ways to the Word of God and conform your life to the image of God. Beware of false standards . . . stay far from altered weights"
The New Testament Conversation
The topics of honoring one's mother and father in terms of weightiness are addressed by Jesus in terms of light and heavy matters of the law.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 5:17-20
The religious Jews of this time would have been very familiar with the concept and understood fully Jesus's intent as he proposes this consideration before them.
Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”
He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
— Mark 7:1-13
This is tied together with the concept of weight in another conversation Jesus has with this very same group where He details his complaint concerning this matter
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also
— Matthew 23:23-26
This is where the bird and the nest come in. In the spectrum of law, the honoring of a mother bird in the nest would have been considered a light law (recall the comparison to sparrows). On the other end of the spectrum, the honoring of a parent should have been considered heavy. The line is drawn from one to the other by their matching promise of prolonging of days. Consider, as well, Jesus's comparison of gnats and camels along these same lines.
Jesus was making it abundantly clear that their estimations and balances were incorrect because they used unjust balances that included their self-indulgence in the measure, when they made weightier matters light and light matters weighty, in order to serve themselves.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!
— Isaiah 5:20-21
The Pharisees had missed the point in both light and weighty matters. They had failed on all accounts by measuring themselves by themselves.
For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise . . . But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends
— II Corinthians 10:12,17
This leads us to the conclusion of this topic. The other incidents that this promise of living long in the land is used in reference to obedience to God Himself, the true and just weight and measure.
You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time
— Deuteronomy 4:40
The Rich Young Ruler
This order of priorities, or should we say disorder of priorities, is displayed in the story of the rich young ruler.
as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one isgood but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’
And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions
— Mark 10:17-21
This is a classic example of displaying what weighed the most in his estimation. Notice that Jesus names all the commandments that have to do with human relationships, but doesn't forthright point to the weightier more important ones about his sincere motive to worship God and consider Him heavy.
Jesus also changes the order of the commandments slightly. He puts "Honor your Father and your Mother last, in all three accounts of this scene, which should have come before all the others that He named. Could this indicate that Jesus is attempting to reveal to the young man his "out of order", and therefore out of balance, priorities? In two of the scenes "you shall not commit adultery" is placed before "you shall not murder" This might be a clue that, God not being his top priority, is actually considered a form of adultery against Him.
Our estimation of God should always trump all else
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.
— Matthew 10:37
Without God in the balance, all other measures are unjust skewed and weighted to serve ourselves. I found the image of the scales and balances interesting, in that there appears to be like a cross. It was at the cross that God put Himself on the scales of justice on behalf of us and paid the weighty cost the impossible cost for ourselves to pay.
Who then can be saved?
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
— Matthew 19
Jesus told that rich young ruler that there was only one who is good and that is God. I believe Jesus was pointing the young man to Himself for that fulfillment of the most important thing he was missing. His question to Jesus was revealing "what can I do . . . ?" as if there were a checklist of accomplishments to credit to his account. Truth was that nothing he could do would weigh more than what Christ was about to do for him.
Likewise, He calls us each into sonship with Himself through His perfectly obedient Son to honor and worship Him that we may have the hope of eternal life with Him and make it our life mission to follow Him and make Him our top priority. This is to give Him weight, to forsake every light thing that stands in His way. To turn our faces to Him and not our backs.
Do we also see the connecting promise as well in the image of honoring parents resulting in a long life with honoring God our Father and the connection to eternal life?
not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
— Titus 3:5-8
1"The Book of Mysteries" by Jonathan Cahn Copyright 2016 (day 148) published by FrontLine Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group, 600 Rinehart Road Lake Mary, Florida 32746 charismahouse.com
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