How Should We Teach Our Children?
With Object Lessons
The Bible’s object lessons provide the answers to mankind’s fundamental questions about life. Jesus’ entire life, teaching, death and resurrection are all object lessons.
As a teacher it is your responsibility to know God’s Word well enough to teach these types of lessons to your children, not only during daily Bible study but by seizing teachable moments throughout the day.
God teaches through object lessons. God commanded His children to put up stones as a reminder in Joshua 4.
The stones were specifically put up in order to prompt children’s questions. When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? The parent’s response is to explain what God has done for them. The lesson is that God cares for His people and provides for them.
And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.—Joshua 4:20–5:1.
We need reminders and we need to remind our children. The Hebrews have a tradition of placing a mezuzah on the doorpost of their homes (Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21). It is customary, upon entering or leaving a residence, to touch the mezuzah. This reverence acknowledges belief in the shema: Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. In Jewish tradition teachers introduced letters of the alphabet on a slate covered with honey; the child then licked the slate so that the words of the Scriptures might taste as sweet as honey.
In Numbers 15:28 God told His people to wear tassels or fringes on the four corners of their garments to remind them of God’s commandments. Speak to the Israelites and say to them:
“Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.”
Today, many Jews wear a prayer shawl, or tallit to fulfill this commandment. It has fringes called tzitzit which are tied to its four corners; the tassels are tied into knots, as a reminder of all 613 of the laws of Moses (248 prohibitions and 365 positive commands). The numerical value of the letters of the word tzitzit is 600; there are eight threads in each fringe, and five knots; add these all up and you get 613. The shawl is often worn in religious services.
Reminders are a form of teaching. Some people wear a mustard seed pendant as a reminder of Jesus’ words, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:20).
The rainbow is a reminder of God’s covenant with Noah. I have a friend who uses each shirt she irons as a reminder to pray for that family member. I have another friend who uses the days of the week as a reminder to pray for a specific grandchild. I use the photographs on my refrigerator, dresser, and fireplace mantle as reminders to pray for our twelve grandchildren (I go through the list by chronological age and occasionally reverse the order to make sure every child receives equal time).
The superstition of walking under a ladder being considered bad luck actually began as a reminder of God because medieval theologians suggested that a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle and, therefore, is a symbolic reminder of the Holy Trinity.
Learning from God’s Creation
In this century, most Americans don’t have much interaction with God’s creation. Our forefathers worked the soil, took care of animals, depended on the weather and interacted daily with the natural elements.
Psalm 23 is more meaningful to a sheep farmer because he understands the profound and insightful parallels of the role of the shepherd in the lives of sheep—as a leader, comforter, caregiver, provider, guardian, and owner—to Jesus’ role in the life of the believer.
Vine and Branches
John 15 records one of Jesus’ last messages to His disciples before His death. He chose a vine and branches to show us the way to a life of fruitfulness. My family’s interaction with vineyards is limited, so I’ve attempted use the dйcor of my house as a reminder, like the stones in Joshua. Our home is decorated with rich colors from the vineyard—deep purple, burgundy, and assorted shades of green. My kitchen and dining area are decorated with a vineyard theme.
Drying the dishes with grapevine-decorated dish towels, or setting the table with grapevine decorated dinnerware are prompts for several Bible lessons. The dependence of the branch on the grapevine is a model of our relationship with Christ. The vineyard reminds us that we must stay in Jesus to bring forth good fruit. If we keep His commandments, we will remain in His love. As we abide in Jesus we see more and more of Him and grow more and more like Him. Our job is simply to remain. To remain is to hold fast and stay in loving obedience. We are not just staying with Him, standing nearby, watching what is going on—we are connected to Him, grafted into Him. Our identity and existence are bound up in Him.
Israel is also God’s vine or vineyard; see Isaiah 5:1–7, 27:2–6; Jeremiah 2:21, 12:10; Ezekiel 17:5–6; Hosea 10:1; Joel 1:7; and Psalm 80:8–16. The word vine is used to describe both the Jewish people and its Messiah, and reinforces the close identification of Jesus with Israel (Matthew 2:15). God’s remnant, the Hebrews and grafted-in Gentile Christian branches (Romans 9:6ff., 11:1–10, 17–24) will obey God’s commands, stay attached to the true vine, and have the true vine’s power and strength to bring forth good fruit (Matthew 7:16–19).
Sowing and Reaping
The law of sowing and reaping teaches that a successful harvest must be preceded by timely planting and ongoing care (watering, weeding, etc.). A similar principle applies in our lives: things we value take time and maintenance. There’s no quick fix for healthy, lasting, relationships in a marriage, family or elsewhere. If we neglect them now, we can’t expect positive results later.
In any living vine the function of a branch is to bear fruit, but it cannot fulfill its purpose unless it remains in intimate connection with the vine. Without that cherished “remain in Me” relationship, it will never fulfill the purpose for which it was created. The Christian who fails to remain in the Vine is as unfulfilled as that of a branch that has been torn from the vine, with no prospect for fruit bearing. There are many more such lessons but I’ll save them for the Plants unit study. When we are aware of teaching moments, these are the types of lessons that should be taught through out the day.
The Bible is Full of these Object Lessons
Jeremiah spoke of honey jars in his object lesson about the destruction of the nation of Judah (Jeremiah 19:1, 10). Hosea was commanded by God to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2–9). This was an object lesson of the sin of the harlotry of Israel in rejecting God and serving pagan gods, and how God would continue to love them and use them as His special people. The book of Jonah is full of object lessons. Most are obvious but some aren’t. God used the loss of the leafy gourd plant that had shaded Jonah’s hut from the blazing sun to ask Jonah that, if he cared about a plant, not wanting to see it die, should not God care about a whole city of people, not wanting to see them die? Another lesson is the comparison of Jonah’s being rescued from a fate he deserved, with the Ninevites’ rescue from a fate they deserved.
Object lessons in Jeremiah include the linen girdle (13:1–11), the potter’s vessel (19:1–12), a basket of figs (24), and bonds and yokes (27:2–11; 28). In Ezekiel: illustrations on a tile (4:1–3), shaving the head (5), moving household items (12:3–16), eating and drinking sparingly (12:18–20), sighing (21:6, 7), a boiling pot (24:1–14), widowhood (24:16–27). More examples include the ram substitute (Genesis 22:1–19), a pot of manna (Exodus 16:32), shedding of blood (Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 8–9), bird’s nest (Deuteronomy 22:5), sackcloth (Isaiah 20:1), grass (Isaiah 40:6–8), almond tree (Jeremiah 1:11–12), little children (Matthew 18:5), a coin (Matthew 22:17), the fig tree (Mark 11:13–20), foot washing (John 13:1–20), a sheet (Acts 10:10–16).
Each of the biblical holidays listed in Leviticus 23 is an object lesson to remind us of God’s mercy and faithfulness. The biblical holidays are very exciting studies revealing Christ. See Biblical Holidays for more.