The Hebrew term, yasar (yasar, verb form; musar, noun form), is commonly associated with parenting in the Old Testament. Here’s a verse where yasar describes something that God does and that parents are to emulate: “Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining (yasar) you just as a man disciplines (yasar) his son” (Deuteronomy 8:5). God’s use of yasar models perfectly how fathers and mothers should deal with foolish behavior and train their children in righteousness.
One passage in Jeremiah offers parents some rich insight in how to yasar their kids: “‘Your own wickedness will correct (yasar) you, And your apostasies will reprove (yakah) you; Know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God, And the dread of Me is not in you,’ declares the Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 2:19).
In this passage, God is addressing His wayward children. They have forsaken the Lord God of Hosts because they do not fear Him. So God announces the introduction of a period of discipline (yasar) and reproof (yakah) that will supply compelling incentives for obedience. “Know” and “see” indicate that Israel is going to incur consequences designed to produce a new-found, but profound, aversion to forsaking the Lord. They will know that forsaking the Lord is evil (wrong) and bitter (utterly distasteful). This doesn’t sound like fun times ahead, but the end product will be good (cf. Hebrews 12:11).
Notice in the first part of the verse that the entities doing the disciplining and reproving are named as “wickedness” and “apostasies.” This is a way of saying that these two behaviors, wickedness and apostasy, have issued an invitation for God to do what is necessary for Israel to learn that forsaking the Lord is evil and bitter (God’s way of doing things really is designed for our well being!). Israel’s experience of the painful side of yasar is something they invited God to administer. This same principle is declared a few verses earlier: “Have you not done this to yourself by your forsaking the Lord your God when He led you in the way” (Jeremiah 2:17)?
So, if we take our cue from God about how to effectively parent our children, we will administer musar by invitation: When our children disobey, they are asking mom and dad for assistance. Optimally, the fear of the Lord should motivate children to do what is right. But when they disobey, they are declaring their need for help. They, by their actions, are asking loving parents to introduce measures that help them see their disobedience as God does, as “evil” and “bitter.” Disobedience to God is not good for us; in fact, it makes us miserable!
Now please understand, the use of this principle, “by invitation,” must be complemented by the use of all eight other musar principles (Eventually, we’ll cover all of them at MomUp.). With that caveat, here’s how this worked when our children were little. When a child disobeyed a clear first report, I would say, “I am so sad. By your foolish behavior, you are telling me that you need my help to do what is right. But I love you too much not to help you do what is best.”
Then it’s time to use appropriate incentives to help my wayward charge develop a view of disobedience that lines up with God’s truth. Consequences have a way of showing children that they really can choose to be happy living God’s way and that living life their way will only bring misery.
This approach has the advantage of uniting the parent and child, putting them on the same team. The child is requesting assistance and the parent is providing it so that they both can work against disobedience. Use of this principle also builds personal responsibility in a child. A child comes to realize that he or she will incur consequences for foolish choices and learns to assume responsibility for making wise choices. A child will actually learn that Mom is not the bad guy; disobedience is! Mom is the loving example of someone who knows what’s best and cares enough to make sure her child is standing in a place of blessing. That’s exactly what God does for you and me!
Posted by Rochelle Fleming